Congressman Westmoreland Visits with Georgia Farmers

On Monday several farmers, researchers, and agricultural industry leaders had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Congressman Lynn Westmoreland of the 3rd congressional district of Georgia. Congressman Westmoreland’s day included a stop at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus where he visited with scientists who perform agricultural research. He learned about the various ways that UGA helps farmers through their research and extension programs.

Since Georgia has a very vast and diverse vegetable industry, Congressman Westmoreland visited Lewis Taylor Farms in Tift County where he received an industry update from vegetable farmer Bill Brim. While in Tift County, the Congressman was also able to visit the Georgia Peanut Commission’s headquarters where he visited with several peanut growers and industry leaders. Lastly, the Congressman visited with the Georgia Cotton Commission at the farm of board member Bart Davis in Colquitt County. Mr. Davis, who also is a peanut, corn, and cattle farmer, explained some of the difficulties facing row crop farmers in 2015. The Congressman, having traveled the state, was very aware of the current situation being faced by farmers across Georgia. Mr. Davis thanked Congressman Westmoreland for co-sponsoring a new bill that would amend the U.S. Cotton Futures Act. This bill would amend the current law, which states that all cotton listed on a U.S. futures contract be sampled and graded by USDA, to allow flexibility in handling foreign grown cotton and foreign delivery points for U.S. cotton. As many cotton farmers know, well over half of the U.S. cotton crop is exported. If this bill becomes law, it would allow for a new world cotton contract that the U.S. cotton industry could use to help hedge against market risk.

Below: Georgia farmer Bart Davis discusses some industry challenges with Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and other leaders in the agricultural industry.

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China at it Again

As we noted back in our winter blog series on the current cotton market, China and India have played a major role in shaping the currently pricing situation faced by Georgia cotton farmers. There is no need to re-explain the policies of China and India as those were covered at length in the previous blogs (click China or India above to view those blogs).

Recently, China is back at their current ever-increasing distortion of the market. On June 9th, the Wall Street Journal posted a great article about the global glut of cotton and how prices are suffering. The article did note that prices have stabilized around the mid 60 cent range but that traders are constantly looking at China and India for market signals. Well a day or so later they got one of those signals when China announced that it was going to sell some of its cotton reserves. Of course, as noted in the previous blog, this dropped the price of cotton even though there were no actual sales of cotton by China. China, just by an announcement with no concrete plans, can move the market a penny or two in just one day.

Previously, most industry folks said that the reserves are a big deal but releasing the reserves wouldn’t cause major havoc in the market because China couldn’t release a lot of cotton at once because of their WTO obligations. Well, I don’t think they have complied with their WTO obligations for the last five years so it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t comply now. While no one really thinks that China will dump a lot of cotton on the market at once, it appears that they could do it and the WTO still would take no action. This is astonishing.

Hopefully the up and coming WTO consultations between the U.S. and China, over many things including cotton, will result in all actors in the market playing by the same rules. The U.S. cotton industry has made tremendous strides and jumped many hurdles in complying with our WTO commitments…it’s time that other countries do the same.

Answering Consumers Questions About Cotton

Consumers are becoming more and more knowledgeable about the food we eat and the cloths we wear. Sometimes though, there still are folks that do not fully understand cotton and its many uses in our lives. Children are the first group that comes to mind that ask questions about cotton but more and more we are fielding questions at the Georgia Cotton Commission from adult consumers about cotton. These questions range from where the cotton is grown that is in our cloths to the use of pesticides in cotton production. There are plenty of resources available to answer consumers questions about cotton.

We have created a questions and answers style page on our website to answer some of the frequently asked questions from consumers. If you have any more common questions that should be put on our Q&A page, please email us at chris@georgiacotton.org.

Cotton Incorporated also has two great consumer resources, The Fabric of Our Lives page, and the Cotton Campus page. Both help consumers understand more about every aspect of cotton.

Of interest this week:

AgSouth Farm Credit and AgGeorgia Farm Credit announce free AGAware workshops

Challenges and Opportunities facing US textile industry (NCTO Chairman Jeff Price)

Video series featuring NCC President/CEO Gary Adams:

Working Through the New Farm Bill, Wins, Losses: Part I
Working Through the New Farm Bill, Wins, Losses: Part II
Working Through the New Farm Bill, Wins, Losses: Part III

Georgia DOL Workforce Report Says Ag Loosing Jobs?

Recently the Georgia Department of Labor issued a report titled “Georgia Workforce Trends – An Analysis of Long-term Employment Projections to 2020.” The report breaks down job losses and job gains in several different ways – industry sector, detailed industry, occupational group, and occupation. Basically “industry sector” is defined as a whole industry, “detailed industry” are subsections of an “industry sector,” “occupational group” is how jobs in a industry are lumped together, and “occupation” is the actual job. All of the statistics are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; the “industry” statistics are from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the “occupation” numbers are from the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) system. The report concludes the total industry sector employment in GA will go by 500,000 workers in 2020, but the sector that ag falls into, Natural Resources, Mining & Logging, will decline by 7,020 jobs. Its hard to understand how this affects ag because the defined industry of Natural Resources, Mining & Logging is very broad. They further broke it down by “detailed industry” and the report shows that crop production will lose 6,140 jobs.

Under “occupations” and “occupational group” the report also gives dire numbers for agriculture. The report lumps farming, fishing, and forestry together for a combined occupational group loss of 4,110. The largest single occupation loss in the report is “farmers, ranchers, & other ag managers” at 4,570. The occupation with the next largest loss is “farmworkers & laborers, crop, nursery, & greenhouse” which has a loss of 2,830 jobs. (maybe fishing and forestry are going up since the group loss is smaller than the ag occupation loss)

GPB picked up on the report and did an interview about it on the “On Second Thought” show. The Georgia ag industry was fortunate to have cotton farmer and GCC Board Member Matt Coley on the show to help explain the numbers. As Mr. Coley points out, there is much more to the ag industry than just producing the crop. Such as the seed, feed, and fertilizer salesmen that supply inputs. There are folks that do nothing but market crops on the backside of the industry. There are scientist in both the public and private sector that develop new ag products. All three of these “occupations” will experience job growth according to the 2020 workforce report, but unfortunately these may not be seen as ag jobs.

The report also states the “the continued decline in crop production” will lead to job losses in the industry. Well I’m not sure what statistics they used to reach that conclusion, but the farm gate and economic impact values of Georgia agriculture continue to climb year after year with the few exceptions of bad years (like the 2011 drought). The economic impact of Georgia ag has definitely grown in the last 10 years and will have to grow by 2020 to support our growing economy.

It seems like this reports shines a negative light on ag innovation. With all the new technologies and innovations in equipment, ag is able to do so much more now with fewer and fewer people actually working on the farm. This usually translates into less farm workers and more farm managers, although this report suggest both occupations will decline. In the GPB interview, Mr. Coley points out these innovations are a good thing, having one man harvest cotton when it used to take 5. For an employment report this may be bad, but as Mr. Coley says it frees up workers to do other things, and thereby increasing the productivity of the farm.

Somehow this report defies all of the other studies done indicating that there will be more openings in the ag industry (or maybe these other reports better define the industry). Here is a USDA study that shows an annual need for 57,900 ag jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher. UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has said on several occasions that the college isn’t producing enough graduates for the industry in Georgia.

Hopefully the GA DOL workforce projections will be wrong. I certainly can’t see how they will be right considering agriculture is the largest industry in the state, employs one out of seven Georgians, and is nearly 10% of the state’s GDP.