This year’s Research Review Day was held today at the UGA Tifton Campus where the Georgia Cotton Commission (GCC) Board of Directors, Research Advisory Committee, and staff review the projects funded by GCC. Once again it was a great day for all involved as GCC gets to see first hand how the producer-funded research impacts every cotton grower in Georgia. This day also affords the producer board members a one-on-one chance to ask specific questions about the progress of research projects and to direct the UGA Cotton Team on the future needs of cotton growers in Georgia.
Below are a few pictures from the event.
The deadline to restructure your farm for compliance with the new actively engaged rule is July 1. Originally the deadline was June 1 but USDA announced a one-time extension of 30 days to allow growers more time to make the necessary arrangements.
In the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA was tasked with coming up for new rules of what constitutes a person being actively engaged in farming to be eligible for CCC programs. The new rule focuses primarily on farm managers (who and how many per farm). The rule is very complicated and can make even the good ag policy experts head hurt.
One tricky part of the rule, and why it is important to look at how your farm is structured, is that despite the rule saying “family farms” are exempt, you must look at how they define family farms. USDA’s term of “family farms” only applies if the farm is comprised of family members in direct lineal descent. From 7 CFR 1400.3 ‘‘a person to whom another member in the farming operation is related as a lineal ancestor, lineal descendant, sibling, spouse, or otherwise by marriage.’’
Under this definition, if two brothers farm together they are a “family farm.” But if these two brothers bring their sons into their family farm, USDA no longer considers it a family farm because the sons of the brothers (cousins) are not of direct lineal descent. This could cause major problems for farms that undergo the usual family transition.
Therefore, we urge all growers to visit your local FSA office before July 1 to see how this new rule affects your farming operation.
On June 6th, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that farmers who grew cotton in 2015 will be eligible for a one-time cost-share payment. For Georgia, the payment rate is $47.44 per acre with a $40,000 payment limit per entity, which is similar to the payment limit in the 2014 Cotton Transition Payment. Sign-up at your local FSA office from June 20th through August 5th. Please remember that there will be no extension to this August 5th deadline.
The Georgia Cotton Commission thanks Secretary Vilsack for understanding the economic conditions faced by cotton growers this year and we encourage all eligible Georgia cotton farmers to sign up for this one-time assistance payment.
Click here for the USDA-FSA fact sheet about the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share Program.
Delta Farm Press interviewed USDA-FSA Administrator Val Dolcini shortly after the program was announced. Click here for the Q&A session with Administrator Dolcini.
PBS recently hosted a town hall meeting with President Obama in Elkhart, Indiana. The first question from the audience was from a local 5th generation fruit and vegetable grower who ask “at what point are we over regulated, if not now?” Click here to see the whole video and the President’s response.
Not surprisingly, this farmer’s question has garnered little attention from the national media or even the ag media. Many ag media outlets have reported in the past about specific regulations that farmers must face but this is the first time (to our knowledge) that any American farmer has asked that question directly to the President in a public setting. The President’s response was probably not what most growers wanted to hear, but given the current regulatory environment in American agriculture, it was probably what the average grower expected to hear. Below is a quick summary of the current regulatory environment faced by Georgia cotton farmers.
- Extremely long deregulation periods. Twenty years ago when the first Bt and Roundup Ready cotton was introduced, a typical product or technology could be deregulated within two or three years of it’s introduction. Dicamba/2,4-D cotton is in its sixth year of regulatory study and it is still not fully deregulated.
- EPA pulling pesticide labels because of questionable data. The EPA is tasked with registering and reviewing the current registrations for crop protection products. While the EPA has some very good scientists, and usually only makes decisions based on sound science, there have been numerous cases recently where real science seemed to take a back seat and decisions were made based on questionable studies or data.
- Waters of the US (WOTUS). The WOTUS ruling to redefine what constitutes as a “waters of the United States” and is subject to the regulations under the Clean Water Act has been a very contentious issue. The EPA/Corp of Engineer ruling spells out very clearly what it defines as a “waters of the United States” and clearly has the intention to regulate more private waterways. In short, basically any water that flows on your property that might flow off of your property could potentially be regulated. Or if your property has water on it and is adjacent to other waters, then it could also be regulated. Nearly every ag group in the country has complained that this is an overreach of the federal government’s power.
- Using pollinators to effectively ban products. Pollinators are very important to American agriculture and many farmers work hand-in-hand with beekeepers to the benefit of both parties. Unfortunately, it is increasingly common for insecticide labels to say “do not spray when crop is blooming” or similar language to the same effect. Since cotton is indeterminate and will bloom for multiple weeks throughout the growing season, this effectively bans many products from being used by growers.
- Worker Protection Standards (WPS). The new WPS ruling, if followed exactly, could cause an increase in costs to the grower. This is another very long and complicated ruling like WOTUS, but the gist of it is that growers will be required to spend much more time and money each year training their employees on proper pesticide use. Growers already are required to do this but the new regulations require more training.
- Actively Engaged ruling. USDA was tasked in the 2014 Farm Bill with coming up with a definition for determining who is currently “actively engaged” in farming to determine that farmer’s eligibility to participate in government programs. This has been a contentious issue for many years because those outside of agriculture think that you have to drive a tractor 10 hours a day to be considered a farmer. Only a few very astute ag policy people can explain all of the ins and outs of this new rule but for the most part family farms, if they are of direct lineal descent, are exempt. This may not seem like a problem until you realize that two brothers who farm are exempt from this statute until their sons join the family farm. Now the sons of the brothers (cousins) would not be a farm consisting of only lineal descendants and therefore would have to figure out where they fall under this actively engaged rule which has several different tiers of how farms are structured and who qualifies as a manager.
These are just a few things that Georgia cotton farmers are dealing with regarding regulation. Recall a few weeks ago our blog focused on several other challenges cotton farmers are facing this year.