As most of you in the cotton industry have heard by now, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that he will not use his authority to designate cottonseed as an ‘other oilseed’ as the industry and over 100 members of Congress requested.
We will not get into the details here but Delta Farm Press has a good synopsis of the letter Vilsack sent to House Ag Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, as well as Conaway’s response.
Chris Clayton of DTN gives a breakdown of the legal concerns in his recent blog, concluding by saying “Call me an internet lawyer, but I think Conaway and the cotton industry might have a case on this one.”
Below is the text of our latest press release regarding this issue.
GCC Disappointed in Secretary Vilsack’s Inaction on Cottonseed
The Georgia Cotton Commission (GCC) is disappointed in the recent comments made by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding the designation of cottonseed as an ‘other oilseed.’ Secretary Vilsack indicated that he did not have legal authority to make such a designation.
GCC Chairman Mike Lucas, a cotton producer from Bleckley County, said that “we were pushing the Secretary to designate cottonseed as an ‘other oilseed’ and bring some temporary relief to the cotton industry.” Designating cottonseed as an ‘other oilseed,’ a clear authority given to the Secretary of Agriculture in the last three Farm Bills, would allow cottonseed to be eligible for Farm Bill programs such as Price Loss Coverage (PLC) or Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC). House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway also believes the Farm Bill gives the Secretary the discretion to designate crops as ‘other oilseeds.’ Conaway was recently quoted as saying “The Department has not only the legal authority to designate cottonseed as an ‘other oilseed,’ but the responsibility to act.”
Lucas notes that the designation would not fix all of the problems faced by the industry but it would be a temporary form of relief until solutions to the long-term problems are found.
“China and India continue to heavily subsidize their domestic cotton industries at support levels well above the current market and higher than our old programs. We can grow high-quality cotton here in Georgia but we can’t compete in the industry when foreign governments are so heavily involved,” says Lucas. Both China and India, the top two cotton producers in the world, have price support programs that have encourage the overproduction of cotton in their respective countries and have severely depressed prices the last several years.
Lucas states that “We thank our congressional leaders and cotton organizations on the support they have given the industry in searching for a short-term solution. While we are very disappointed in Secretary Vilsack’s indication that he will not designate cottonseed as an ‘other oilseed,’ we look forward to continuing to work with USDA and our congressional delegation find some relief for the cotton industry.”