NCC: Trade Assistance Will Provide Economic Relief

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council extended its thanks to the Administration after USDA announced details regarding the second tranche of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments for the 2019 crop year.

NCC Chairman Mike Tate, an Alabama cotton producer, said this assistance is timely as U.S. cotton’s economic health has deteriorated significantly during 2019. He noted that lost market share to China and a slowdown in global cotton demand have contributed to cotton futures prices having fallen by approximately 30 cents per pound since summer 2018. With average yields, that drop equates to about $250 less revenue per acre.

“This second round of MFP payments is much needed for mitigating the impacts of retaliatory tariffs being placed on U.S. raw cotton to China,” Tate said. “We are encouraged from Administration reports about the state of the trade talks with China in an effort to finalize a Phase 1 agreement that would include a significant commitment by China to purchase U.S. agricultural commodities.”

The first tranche of MFP payments provided 50 percent of the expected county payment rate per acre and the second tranche – to begin being processed by USDA during the week of November 18 – is providing an additional 25 percent of the county payment rate.

Tate said the U.S. cotton industry is urging USDA to proceed with facilitating the third MFP tranche, which the agency has indicated will be 25 percent of the 2019 MFP. USDA indicated a January timetable for that tranche, but its initiation could be affected by a potential Phase 1 agreement with China.

Hollifield and Torrance Presented 2019 King Cotton Awards

kingcotton219County UGA Cooperative Extension Service agents are an incredible resource for cotton farmers across Georgia.  Agents are known for delivering timely and accurate information, which is instrumental for the success of Georgia’s farmers.  They also do community specific research, education, and outreach programs, designed at helping farmers maximizing yields and efficiency.

For the nineteenth year in a row, the Georgia Cotton Commission sponsored the King Cotton Awards to recognize outstanding contributions of county agents to Georgia cotton producers. The Senior Award is for agents with 10 or more years of experience, while the Junior Award, named the Allen B. Fulford Award, is for those with less than 10 years of service. The latter award honors the accomplishments and memory of Allen B. Fulford as a county Extension agent and state cotton agronomist.  The awards were presented at the 2019 Georgia Association of County Agricultural Agents Annual Meeting & Professional Improvement Conference held in Dublin in November.  The Georgia Cotton Commission is proud to salute the excellent work that County Extension Agents do for farmers across the state.

The 2019 Senior King Cotton Award Winner is Stephanie Hollifield of Brooks County, where she serves as County Extension Coordinator as well as Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent.  Hollifield has worked for Extension from 1994 to 1998 and 2013 to present. She has ten years of service, all in Brooks County.  In addition to holding producer education programs regarding agronomics and defoliation, Hollifield conducts county research on cotton.  The priorities for her local research are made in collaboration with local growers.  Recent trials have been on issues such as areolate mildew, planter downforce, defoliation tank mixes, and many more.

The 2019 Allen B. Fulford Award recipient is Ty Torrance of Grady County, where he serves as ANR Agent.  Torrance started with extension in 2015, and previously served producers in Decatur, Schley, and Marion Counties.  Ty has been recognized nationally for his work regarding irrigation scheduling and serves as a member of the Georgia Cotton Commission’s Research Advisory Committee, which analyzes and makes recommendations on research programs funded by the Commission.  Ty also participates in the UGA Cotton Team’s on-farm variety trials, a program designed to inform producers on yield and fiber quality data from the numerous commercial cotton varieties available to farmers across the state.

The Georgia Cotton Commission is a producer-funded organization located in Perry, Georgia. The Commission began in 1965. Georgia cotton producers pay an assessment enabling the Commission to invest in programs of research, promotion, and education on behalf of all cotton producers of Georgia. For more information about the Georgia Cotton Commission please call (478) 988-4235 or on the web at www.georgiacottoncommission.org.

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NCC Applauds EPA Revisions for Pesticide Applications

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council appreciates the EPA’s proposal to change some aspects of the Worker Protection Standards (WPS) that were finalized under the last Administration.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler made the announcement today regarding the proposal that provides much needed changes to what is called the Application Exclusion Zone, or AEZ. The AEZ is a 25- or 100-feet, unoccupied, “floating” area around any pesticide application equipment that “moves” with the equipment. This zone is to remain unoccupied during the pesticide application. Problems arose, though, because farmer’s homes and buildings are most often in or next to their fields and would have to be vacated under the AEZ rules. Also, many fields are adjacent to other properties and public roads where the farmer or applicator has no control.

The proposed revisions will: 1) modify the AEZ to be enforceable only on the farmer’s property; 2) exempt immediate family from having to leave their homes or outbuildings; 3) clarify that applications can resume as soon as an individual has vacated the AEZ; and 4) simplify the decision-making process on whether the AEZ must be 25-feet or 100-feet.

NCC Chairman Mike Tate, an Alabama cotton producer, said, “I believe these changes, when finalized, will provide much-needed assurance to farmers and applicators, reduce their potential liability, eliminate the loss of useable field edges and still protect human health and the environment. Our industry is grateful for the practical, commonsense approach that Administrator Wheeler and his team continues to utilize when determining how best to ensure public safety and health without undue, burdensome regulations on family farms.”

In EPA’s news release regarding the agency’s proposal, Wheeler noted that the proposal would “enhance the agency’s Application Exclusion Zone provisions by making them more effective and easier to implement. In listening to input from stakeholders, our proposal will make targeted updates, maintaining safety requirements to protect the health of those in farm country, while providing greater flexibility for farmers.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stated in EPA’s release that, “President Trump made a commitment to our farmers to reduce burdensome regulations, and this is another example of him making good on that promise. This action will make it easier for our farmers and growers to comply with the Application Exclusion Zone provisions, providing them with the flexibility to do what they do best – feed, fuel, and clothe the world.”

The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register.

FSA: Trade and Disaster Assistance Available to Georgia Agricultural Producers Impacted by Tariffs and Natural Disasters

By:  Tas Smith, State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency, Georgia

Agricultural producers are facing tough times.  Under the direction of President Donald Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to ensuring producers suffer minimal financial impact from the wrath of Mother Nature and trade tariffs implemented by China and others.

Trade Impact Assistance

On July 29, signup began for the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and will continue through December 6, 2019.  MFP provides up to $14.5 billion in direct payments to agricultural producers who have been affected by unjustified retaliatory foreign tariffs on U.S. farm goods; causing a loss of traditional export markets.

Non-Specialty Crops

Assistance for covered non-specialty crops is based on a single county payment rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings, in aggregate in 2019.  A producer’s total payment-eligible plantings cannot exceed total 2018 plantings.  Calculations will consider new farmers, fallow ground, and farms exiting the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

County payment rates range from $15 to $150 per acre, depending on the impact of unjustified trade retaliation on that county.  Producers will receive a payment based on 2019 planted acreage multiplied by county payment rate.

Livestock

Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1, 2019, will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history, and hog producers will receive a payment based on the number of live hogs owned on a day selected by the producer between April 1 and May 15, 2019.

Specialty Crops

For specialty crops, producers will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of fruit or nut bearing plants.  Rates include:  Dairy (milk): $0.20 per hundredweight, Hogs:  $11 per head, Nuts:  $146 per acre, and table grapes:  $0.03 per pound at 20,820 pounds per acre.

Payment Limitation and Eligibility

Payments for each category of covered commodity (non-specialty, livestock and specialty) are limited to $250,000 per person or legal entity, but no applicant can receive more than $500,000 (for example, a dairy producer who grows cotton and produces pecans can only receive $500,000).

To be eligible for payments, applicants also must either: have an average adjusted gross income for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017 of less than $900,000 or derive at least 75% of their adjusted gross income from farming.

MFP payments will be made in up to three installments, with the second and third installments evaluated as market conditions and trade impact dictates.  If conditions warrant, the second and third installments will be made in November 2019 and early January 2020.  The first payment will be issued based on the higher of the larger of 50 percent of a calculated county payment rate or $15 per acre.

A list of covered commodities, the MFP application, and payment rates can be found at farmers.gov/mfp.

Disaster Recovery Assistance

Hurricane Michael

The 2018 growing season was one of extreme difficulty for Georgia producers.  Last October one of the most productive crop years on record was battered and destroyed by Hurricane Michael.  According to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, Hurricane Michael caused more than $2.5 billion in losses to Georgia’s agricultural sector.

Responding to this devastation, Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019.  The law provides assistance for production losses from Hurricane Michael through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+).

The disaster relief package also includes new Milk Loss and On-Farm Storage Loss programs to help producers who had to dump or remove milk without compensation or for losses of harvested commodities, including hay that was stored in on-farm structures.

Peach and blueberry producers will also receive assistance from 2017 freezes that affected 2017 and 2018 production through the original regulations of the 2017 WHIP program.

WHIP+

Signup for WHIP+ began on September 11 and will continue into 2020.  WHIP+ builds off the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) and is available to producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines.

To be considered eligible for WHIP+, producers must farm land in a Secretarially or Presidentially-declared disaster county.  Producers outside one of those counties may be still be eligible for assistance if they can prove that they experienced the minimum level of loss due to a qualifying, eligible disaster event.

Eligibility will be determined for each producer based on the size of the loss and the level of noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) or conventional crop insurance coverage obtained by the producer.  A “WHIP+ factor” will be determined for each crop based on the producer’s coverage level.  Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP+ factor.  Producers who suffered crop losses due to Hurricane Michael will be compensated at 100 percent of their calculated WHIP+ payment, once the application is approved.

WHIP+ benefits will be subject to a per person or legal entity payment limitation of $125,000 or $250,000 if at least 75 percent of the person’s or legal entity’s average income is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities, provided the participant submits the required certification and documentation.

Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP+.  Producers receiving assistance through WHIP+ will be required to purchase crop insurance or NAP coverage, at the minimum 60 percent level for the next two consecutive crop years.

USDA is also working with Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner to further assist growers through state block grants for producer losses not covered by WHIP+ or other USDA disaster programs.

For county rates, a WHIP+ application or related program information, visit farmers.gov/whip-plus.

For more information, please contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Center farmers.gov/service-locator.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Tas Smith
State Executive Director
USDA Farm Service Agency – Georgia

Coley, Meeks Reappointed to Cotton Commission Board

In late July, the Commodity Commission Ex-Officio Committee met to make appointments to the Georgia Cotton Commission Board of Directors.  GCC Vice Chairman Matt Coley, a cotton and peanut farmer from Vienna; and director Steven Meeks, a cotton, peanut, tobacco, and timber producer from Screven, were both reappointed to another three year term on the Commission’s board of directors.

Matt Coley and his father operate Coley Farms.  The Coleys also operate Coley Gin & Fertilizer, a cotton gin and peanut buying point that has been operating since 1945.  Matt has degrees from the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences.  He spent time in Washington as a staffer for Senator Saxby Chambliss and was instrumental in developing the 2008 Farm Bill.  Matt holds leadership positions in many cotton organization, including serving as a member of the National Cotton Council’s Sustainability Task Force.  Coley has served on the Georgia Cotton Commission board since 2012 and as Vice Chairman since 2017.  He was a member of the Leadership Georgia class of 2016 and serves as a member of the National Peanut Buying Points Association board.  Matt and his wife have two daughters who attend Crisp Academy, where he serves on the school board.

When asked why it was important to him to be involved with the Georgia Cotton Commission, Coley said, “As a 4th-generation cotton producer, one of my top priorities is working to make sure that the next generation has the opportunity to continue producing cotton in the future.  The work of the Georgia Cotton Commission helps ensure this by utilizing the $1/bale investment from Georgia cotton producers for research, education and promotion.  It is a great honor to be able to help steer Commission funded projects that will not only help cotton growers today, but also benefit the next generation of Georgia cotton producers.”

Steven Meeks operates Nine Run Farms and serves as operations manager for FMR Burch Farms.  After graduating from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Meeks worked for Congressman then Senator Saxby Chambliss as well as the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and was a key staff member during the drafting, passage, and implementation of two farm bills.  Meeks serves on numerous cotton industry boards and has served on the Georgia Cotton Commission board since 2012.  He serves as a trustee for Leadership Georgia, of which he was a member of the 2012 class, and on the UGA CAES Dean’s Advisory Council.  Meeks has served the people of Appling, Brantley, Pierce, and Wayne Counties as a State Representative since 2018.  In the General Assembly he is a member of the Agriculture & Consumer Affairs; Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications; and Intragovernmental Coordination Committees.  Meeks and his wife, the former Joy Burch, have one son, John William.

Meeks said of his reappointment, “I am honored to have been reappointed to the Georgia Cotton Commission Board of Directors.  Cotton is Georgia’s number one row crop and the work that Commission does in research, promotion, and education is instrumental to the continued sustainability, both financially and environmentally, of cotton production in Georgia and will keep this economically important crop in Georgia for generations to come.”

The Georgia Cotton Commission is a producer-funded organization located in Perry, Georgia. The Commission began in 1965. Georgia cotton producers pay an assessment enabling the Commission to invest in programs of research, promotion, and education on behalf of all cotton producers of Georgia. For more information about this and other topics please call 478-988-4235 or visit us on the web at www.georgiacottoncommission.org.

Whitaker on Cotton Defoliation and Harvest

It’s seems like just yesterday we were planting the 2019 Georgia cotton crop, yet here at the end of September producers have already gotten started with defoliation and harvest.  We typically get started at the end of September, but things are moving faster this year.  Much of this is due to the challenges we’ve faced with tropical systems over the past three years.  Producers have made efforts to limit our exposure to the risks associated with these storms by spreading out planting, particularly by planting more of the crop earlier in the window such that their crop isn’t entirely exposed to wind and rain damage regardless of when it occurs.  Earlier plantings, along with limited rainfall and relentless heat have pushed many acres to be harvestable much earlier than usual.  Overall, the entire Georgia crop is maturing earlier than I’ve seen in quite a few years.  Harvest progress is ahead of schedule compared to most years, but there is a long way to go before we get the entire crop to the gin.

In addition to spreading risk by widening our planting window, producers are also working to limit unnecessary risks from tropical systems by being timelier with defoliation timing and harvest.  Several factors have caused cotton harvest in Georgia to typically lag behind the rest of the country.  Much of it has to do with our extremely long growing season and due to the fact that Georgia has such a large peanut crop.  Timely harvest is important for cotton, but critical for peanut and with only so much time in the day, producers have been forced to put peanut harvest ahead of cotton harvest.  However, with the introduction of round bale cotton harvesters (which require only one person to harvest the crop compared to a crew with basket pickers) and the much earlier maturity of currently planted cotton varieties (compared to full season varieties we’ve grown in the past) we now have both the ability and need to be more timely with cotton harvest than ever before.

When making decisions on defoliation and harvest timing, we ultimately are making a decision on which bolls to harvest.  If you ask a producer which bolls on the plant they want to harvest the answer you will get every time is “all of them”.  The issue with that answer is that all of the bolls on a plant are not ready to harvest at the same time.  Cotton bolls develop over a wide window of time and it can ultimately be several weeks between the time the earliest and latest boll on the plant reach maturity.  Weather during the harvest season impacts how long those earliest maturing bolls can still be harvested while waiting on later set bolls to mature.  If little to no rainfall or wind occurs, we have the opportunity to wait (since cotton can remain on the boll for extended periods of time under the right circumstances), yet in most years weathering impacts the ability to successfully harvest those earlier set bolls if we wait too long for those later developing bolls to mature, thus leading to a situation where we don’t have the opportunity to harvest “all of them”.  Therefore, appropriate defoliation and harvest timing decisions have to be made to ensure we harvest the most and the best bolls on the plant.  Research has shown that the value of a boll varies greatly based on where it is located in the canopy and typically bolls set earlier in the year (and lower in the plant canopy) are worth two to three times more than a boll set later in the year (and in the top of the canopy).  So, when making the “right” and most profitable defoliation timing decision we may often end up with unopen and subsequently unharvestable bolls in the top of the canopy.  Leaving bolls in the field unharvested never makes a producer happy, but is often the right decision when considering profitability.

Although we have a long way to go, the 2019 Georgia cotton crop seems to be a decent to good one.  We certainly don’t have the crop that we had before Hurricane Michael tore through the state last year or what we had in 2012, but I do expect us to produce average yields that will be among the top five or so years on record, which is quite an accomplishment given the growing season.  We dodged a bullet with Hurricane Dorian and hopefully we’ll be able to harvest this year’s crop without interruption.  For help with making defoliation timing decisions along with choosing the right product combination and rates contact your local UGA County Extension Agent.  For more information this and other cotton topics be sure to visit the UGA Cotton Webpage and sign up to receive updates at www.ugacotton.com.

This article was written by UGA Extension Cotton Agronomist Dr. Jared Whitaker.

CCI: Major U.S. Cotton Customers to See Their Raw Fiber Source Firsthand

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (September 16, 2019) – Textile manufacturing executives representing 14 countries will visit the U.S. Cotton Belt September 30-October 4 on the 41st COTTON USA Orientation Tour.

Sponsored by Cotton Council International (CCI), the export promotions arm of the Memphis-based National Cotton Council (NCC), the Orientation Tour’s major objectives are to increase U.S. cotton customers’ awareness of the types/qualities of U.S. cotton, help them gain a better understanding of U.S. marketing practices and enhance their relationships with U.S. exporters. More than 900 textile executives from 60 plus countries have participated in this biennial Tour, which was initiated in 1968.

“We want to show these important U.S. cotton customers the source of the high quality, responsibly-produced fiber they use in their textile operations,” said CCI President Hank Reichle, a Mississippi cooperative executive. “We also want to showcase how intently focused our industry is on sustainability and the degree to which we are committed and invested in continuous improvement in our production practices. Hopefully, they will come away with an even better appreciation of our fiber’s premium value and how it can make their textile operations more competitive.”

This year’s Orientation Tour includes executives representing 32 companies in Bangladesh, China, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. The manufacturers are expected to consume about 3.7 million bales in 2019, and the U.S. market share with them is estimated at about 33 percent. The countries represented on this year’s tour consume about 101 million cotton bales per year in their textile mills, which represents about 82 percent of the world’s cotton consumption.

The Tour participants will visit a Mid-South cotton farm; tour a cotton warehouse in the Lubbock, Texas area; observe cotton research in North Carolina and Mississippi, and tour the USDA cotton classing office in Bartlett, Tennessee. They will meet with U.S. cotton exporters and get briefings from CCI, the NCC, Cotton Incorporated, the American Cotton Shippers Association, the Texas Cotton Association, the Lubbock Cotton Exchange, AMCOT, the American Cotton Producers, the Delta Council, the Plains Cotton Growers Association, the Western Cotton Shippers Association and Supima.

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Cotton Council International (CCI) is a non-profit trade association that promotes U.S. cotton fiber and manufactured cotton products around the globe with our COTTON USA™ Mark. Our reach extends to more than 50 countries through 20 offices around the world. With more than 60 years of experience, CCI’s mission is to make U.S. cotton the preferred fiber for mills/manufacturers, brands/retailers and consumers, commanding a value-added premium that delivers profitability across the U.S. cotton industry and drives export growth of fiber, yarn and other cotton products. For more information, visit www.cottonusa.org.

NCC: WOTUS Rule Withdrawal Is Right

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council (NCC) applauds today’s announcement by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler that the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule has been withdrawn.

The next step will be a new final rule expected towards the end of this year.

NCC Chairman Mike Tate noted that the U.S. cotton industry has long sought consistency and simplicity in water regulations and said, “EPA’s decision ends the uncertainty caused by the WOTUS rule and the resulting, sometimes conflicting, court verdicts that led to a patchwork of regulations nationwide.”

Tate, an Alabama cotton producer, stated, “Cotton producers and all of agriculture deserve a commonsense and understandable rule that not only ensures environmental and human health but protects farmland and our rights to conduct our operations in a responsible and economically sustainable manner with flexibility that wasn’t present under the 2015 rule. While nothing is perfect, we foresee the new rule as one that does not label as ‘waters of the U.S.’ those vast areas of dry land that have been farmed for generations.”