NCC: Senate’s Farm Legislation Raises Serious Concerns for Cotton

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council (NCC) will be working to ensure that final farm legislation will address the serious shortcomings of the Senate farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

One of those major concerns involves the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP). That program, which had been eliminated in the farm bill version voted out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has three years of full funding restored in the Senate’s farm bill. While that is a step in the right direction, the NCC strongly believes that it is critically important to fully restore the funding for EAAP which continues to help U.S. textile manufacturers stay competitive.

The NCC appreciates the work of Senators Isakson (R-GA), Jones (D-AL), Tillis (R-NC), Burr (R-NC) and Graham (R-SC), as well as Senate Agriculture Committee members Boozman (R-AR), Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Perdue (R-GA) for fighting for EAAP restoration and other cotton priorities. Senators Isakson and Jones led a letter with 16 Senators that was sent to the Committee urging full funding of EAAP, and Senator Hyde-Smith introduced an amendment that would have fully restored the EAAP funding.

The NCC appreciates the efforts of all Cotton Belt Senators who worked throughout the Senate farm bill process to defend and improve policies important to the cotton industry.

The NCC thanks Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts (R-KS) for his leadership in preserving the Agriculture Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage (ARC/PLC) programs and the marketing loan program, but the NCC is extremely concerned about a damaging amendment by Senator Grassley (R-IA) included in the Senate’s farm bill that will harm family farms across the country and make the farm law’s safety net less effective. That amendment tightens the restrictions on farm management contributions for commodity program eligibility.

The NCC believes the House’s version of the farm bill more fully addresses the policy needs of the U.S. cotton and textile industries, as well as commercially-viable family farming operations in general. The NCC, as U.S. cotton’s central organization, looks forward to working with its supporters in the House and Senate throughout the conference committee process to achieve the U.S. cotton industry’s policy priorities in the final legislation.

The Memphis-based NCC’s mission is ensuring the ability of those seven U.S. cotton industry segments to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.

Leaders Pass Farm Legislation, but Crucible Remains for Farm Bill

On June 21st, the U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the Farm Bill on a narrow (213-211), largely party line vote.  The Senate passed their version June 28th in a much more bi-partisan fashion (86-11).  The House bill drastically changes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Senate version pulls money from textile mills and puts it in to biomass and renewable fuels, just to highlight a few differences.

While we all took high school civics and understand the basics of the legislative process, this legislation isn’t exactly ready for President Trump’s signature, and in several ways is being ready to be actually written.  The Farm Bill’s next stop is a conference committee, a temporary panel of members of both houses and both parties.  The members are appointed by the leadership in concert with the chairs and ranking members of the committee in which the legislation originated (in this case, the agriculture committees of each respective house), with the possibility of members of other committees of jurisdiction.

The purpose of the conference committee is to come together (a term rarely used in Washington today) to draft a conference report that can be passed by both houses.  While the committee cannot re-write the bill, sometimes things that were not included in the original legislation can find their way in.  Conferees may also put their own signature to the report that represents the “local flair” of their constituents.  News out of the conference committee may be slim, as most of the proceedings will take place behind closed doors.

This is obviously an extremely important part of the process in getting American farmers and consumers a Farm Bill.  The hope is that this legislation will be passed fairly quickly and with as little drama as possible in order to give farmers and markets the stability to feed and clothe our nation over the next five years.  All of American agriculture will watch anxiously to see which legislators are appointed to the committee.

USDA to Help Producers Prepare for Addition of Seed Cotton to Two Key Safety Net Programs

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is sending acreage history and yield reports to agricultural producers with generic base acres covered by the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. This information will help producers decide the best options for how to allocate generic base acres, given the addition of seed cotton as a covered commodity in the programs.

“We’re sending this information to make sure farmers and ranchers have the data they need to make critical decisions about these USDA programs,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “It’s important that producers take a few minutes to compare the information they receive with their farm records. If something is incorrect, we encourage them to contact their local USDA office.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 amended the 2014 Farm Bill, adding seed cotton as a covered commodity under the ARC and PLC programs. This week, FSA will start sending producers information on current generic base acres, yields and 2008-2012 planting history.

Per the Act, FSA is using the period 2009 through 2012 to compute the conversion of generic base acres to seed cotton base acres.  In contrast, the 2008 through 2012 period is used to calculate yield updates to seed cotton. The updates are an important part of preparing agricultural producers to make decisions on allocating generic basic acres and updating yields for seed cotton.

This summer, producers will have an opportunity to allocate their generic base acres and update their seed cotton yield.

All producers electing to participate in either the ARC or PLC program will be required to make a one-time, unanimous and irrevocable election, choosing between ARC and PLC for the 2018 crop year for seed cotton only. Producers who elected ARC with the individual farm option will continue with that option since that election is applicable to all base acres on the farm. The final step to participate requires producers with farms with seed cotton base acres to sign contracts for ARC or PLC for 2018 this summer.

 

The anticipated timeline is:

  • June 29: Producers are mailed letters notifying them of current generic base acres and yields and 2008 to 2012 planting history.
  • July: An online decision tool for ARC and PLC becomes available. Producers have opportunity to update yields and allocate generic base acres for ARC and PLC.
  • Late July: ARC and PLC one-time elections occur for seed cotton.
  • Late July: ARC and PLC sign-up for 2018 starts for farms with seed cotton base acres.

“For all farmers and ranchers with questions, we encourage you to reach out to your local FSA office,” Fordyce said.

FSA will provide updates as dates solidify. For more information, visit FSA’s ARC and PLC webpage or contact your local USDA service center.

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NCC Applauds House Passage of Farm Legislation

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council (NCC) strongly supports the farm policy provisions in the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) and believes today’s House passage of the bill is an extremely important and strong step toward providing much needed stability to the U.S. cotton industry.

NCC Chairman Ron Craft, a Plains, Texas, ginner, said, “our industry is tremendously grateful for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway’s (R-TX) leadership in the development of this legislation and getting it to a successful vote in the House.”

He said the industry also appreciates the strong support from Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) and the many Cotton Belt Representatives in helping to get this farm legislation through the House without damaging amendments such as those that would compromise crop insurance and impose stricter payment limits and eligibility provisions.

“Without strong commodity and crop insurance policies underpinning U.S. agriculture,” Craft stated, “lenders would be reluctant to provide financing to an industry operating at the mercy of weather extremes and volatile global market prices.”

Craft said this farm bill not only can help cotton producers obtain the financing necessary for capital investments and annual crop production but can support a healthy and thriving rural economy that includes cotton gins, warehouses, marketing coops and merchants to market the crop, cottonseed handlers, and textile manufacturers – and the businesses that support them.

“The NCC is continuing to work with the Senate to reverse the harmful changes made to cotton policy during last week’s Senate Agriculture Committee consideration of its farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” Craft said.

The full Senate may consider its farm bill the week of June 25.