Early in the year, the NCC issued a statement thanking House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) for their perseverance in getting farm legislation through the House. The NCC said it appreciated the bill's authorization of the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), a new crop insurance product tailored to cotton and an important step for achieving a final resolution of the long-standing Brazil World Trade Organization case. However, the NCC did express the industry's concern about the inclusion of instructions to the Secretary to propose changes in the criteria used to determine eligibility for commodity programs beginning in 2015 and the further reduction in the Adjusted Gross Income eligibility test. The NCC also noted that re-imposition of limitations on marketing loan benefits would disrupt orderly marketing in times of low prices.
Those concerns also were relayed to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) in a statement that also commended the pair for their efforts in getting farm legislation through the Senate.
Karis T. Gutter, center, USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, accompanied by NCC Senior Vice President John Maguire, toured the West Tennessee farm of Bob Walker as part of NCC 2014 Mid-Year Meeting activity.
After the Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law, the NCC immediately scheduled 49 education meetings in 15 Cotton Belt states. Following the meetings, the NCC prepared a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the new farm law based on feedback from the meetings' attendees. Those FAQs, along with a NCC-prepared document containing the basic preliminaries of the new farm law and implementation-related information were posted in the NCC website's Farm Bill section – available from www.cotton.org. NCC members were encouraged to check that site for updates.
The NCC commended USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) after it announced that STAX would be available to upland cotton producers through the federal crop insurance program beginning with the 2015 crop year.
The NCC also commended RMA after it announced the implementation of the Actual Production History (APH) Yield Exclusion – which will be available nationwide for farmers of select crops beginning in spring 2015. Earlier, the NCC had submitted comments to RMA's Interim Rule that addressed implementation of enterprise units by practice, coverage by practice, beginning farmer provisions and the new linkage of crop insurance and conservation compliance. RMA was commended for offering the ability to insure at different coverage levels by practice -- a provision the NCC had long supported -- but the NCC comments also noted that RMA had indicated the APH provision would not be available in 2015. The NCC pointed out that this provision was especially important for Cotton Belt regions that recently had incurred several years of historic drought conditions. RMA was asked to continue reviewing every avenue possible for the provision's implementation. The NCC also sent a letter to RMA Administrator Brandon Willis urging the agency to make every effort to implement the provision for the 2015 cotton crop. The letter was based on an American Cotton Producers resolution that subsequently was approved by the NCC's Board.
When USDA announced the farm law's final STAX provisions late in the year, the NCC scheduled and conducted 25 STAX/farm law workshops across the Cotton Belt to provide its members with in-depth information regarding insurance options for cotton under The Agricultural Act of 2014. The NCC also conducted webinars to widen the information distribution.
The NCC conducted educational meetings and workshops across the Cotton Belt after the Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law and then later in the year after key STAX program details were released.
In another effort to keeps its members informed on farm law implementation, the NCC distributed a summary of the law's payment limit provisions. The new farm legislation imposes a $125,000 limit on benefits received through marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments, as well as payments from the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for all commodities (except peanuts which are covered by a separate $125,000 limit). The NCC's document also served to remind its members that the application of the limit to marketing loan benefits was a new feature in the 2014 farm law and one that created significant risk and uncertainty for all in the marketing chain. The summary was the result of ongoing efforts by a NCC Payment Limit Working Group comprised of producers, ginners, marketing cooperatives and private merchants. The Working Group also coordinated with USDA to develop reporting and tracking systems for 1) providing equitable treatment for all modes of marketing and 2) minimizing cotton flow disruptions.
In other farm policy activity, the NCC:
- Posted updated fact sheets on USDA conservation programs on the NCC website's Conservation in Cotton Production page. The fact sheets were aimed at helping NCC producer members 1) determine which conservation programs would be beneficial to their operations and 2) better understand the programs' qualifications/enrollment process.
- Conveyed the U.S. cotton industry's deep appreciation for Juan Garcia's longstanding devotion to serving production agriculture and rural America upon the USDA Farm Service Agency administrator's announcement of his retirement.
After the House Appropriations Committee announced plans to begin work on the FY15 agriculture spending measure, the NCC urged it and the Senate appropriations panel to reject any amendments to the FY15 agriculture spending measure that would change the newly enacted farm bill's provisions. The NCC also urged 1) the inclusion of cost share funding to USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service for the cotton pests eradication program account in the amount of $11.52 million; and 2) full funding for the Market Access Program ($200 million) and Foreign Market Development Program ($34.5 million).
In letters to several members of California's congressional delegation, the NCC urged the House and Senate to work to resolve the differences between S. 2198 and H.R. 3964 and work together in the remaining days of the 113th Congress to approve comprehensive drought relief legislation. The NCC letters emphasized the cotton industry's support for the recommendations and urged "their inclusion in legislation that can be presented to the House and Senate for approval and sent to the President for his signature in the near future."
USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) resumed publication of several Current Industrial Reports previously suspended by the Census Bureau – including the report on cotton stocks and mill use data. The resumption, which had been advocated by the NCC and other agricultural trade associations, was made possible through the Congressionally-approved FY14 omnibus spending package. The NCC also submitted comments supporting NASS' resumption of its Consumption on the Cotton System and Stocks survey that gathers the necessary information for the Reports. The importance of the consumption and stocks survey in providing a complete picture of the U.S. balance sheet was cited.
NCC Chairman Wally Darneille, right, congratulates Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) on being selected by the House Republican Conference to chair the House Committee on Agriculture in the 114th Congress.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the EXPIRE Act -- a measure that temporarily extended for two years a number of expiring tax provisions. Included in the package were provisions extending Section 179 expensing provisions and bonus depreciation. The NCC had joined other members of the Ag Tax Coalition in urging extension of Section 179 and bonus depreciation. Later, that coalition sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging action before Congress adjourned in 2014. The letter specifically requested that the Section 179 small business expensing provision be reinstated at $500,000 per year – a level that expired at the end of 2013. The letter also sought a renewal of the expired 50 percent bonus depreciation for the purchase of new capital assets, including agricultural equipment.
In other legislative activities, the NCC:
Joined with more than 30 other agricultural trade organizations on a letter to House members supporting H.R. 4413, the "Customer Protection and End-User Relief Act." The bill also reauthorized the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Coalesced with a group that included several agricultural organizations, on a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in which Congressional Members were urged to support the targeted truck weight provisions included in Section 125 of the FY15 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Appropriations Act (H.R. 4745). The House ultimately passed the bill with no changes to Section 125.Issued a statement congratulating Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) on being selected by the House Republican Conference to chair the House Committee on Agriculture in the 114th Congress beginning in January, 2015.