Farm Family Letter

In a letter to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Chambliss (R-GA) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Gregg (R-NH), NCC producer members from across the Cotton Belt expressed deep concern over the continued efforts to dismantle the current farm bill that has served production agriculture so well.

Published: February 27, 2002
Updated: November 3, 2005

November 2, 2005

The Honorable Saxby Chambliss, Chairman
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee
Washington, DC20515

The Honorable Judd Gregg, Chairman
Senate Budget Committee
Washington, DC20515

Gentlemen:

This letter is to express our deep concern over the continued efforts to dismantle the current farm bill that has served production agriculture so well.  These attacks are misleading the American public and threaten the viability of one of this nation’s most productive and viable industries. The continued assault on our farm program discourages investment in equipment and land improvement, makes long-term leases more problematic and reduces producer incentives to make market-oriented production and marketing decisions.

As U.S. farmers face energy costs that have more than doubled and as the United States approaches a critical juncture in international trade negotiations, we can ill-afford changes that would undermine the effectiveness of the 2002 farm bill.

Of particular concern are the proposals to apply even more restrictive limits on farm program benefits. The impetus for these proposals can only be a misunderstanding about what constitutes a commercially viable farming operation.  U.S. farming operations have increased in size only as necessary to achieve economies of scale and react to ever-shrinking margins.  These larger farming operations remain predominately family farms.  Farm program benefits are not profits.  They simply help us survive during periods of low prices.  Cotton’s per acre payments as a percentage of the cash cost of production are lower than those for feed grains and oilseeds.  Current loan rates for cotton do not encourage over-production. We plant in response to market signals, not program benefits. 

A USDA/ERS study of agriculture census data shows that program payments have not contributed to increases in farm size over the last 20 years. Another ERS study concludes that program benefits only account for 8 percent of the increase in land values. Economic forces of a non-agricultural nature are playing ever-increasing roles in determining farmland values.

During periods of low prices, more restrictive limits will impact a producer of cotton, rice and peanuts on far fewer acres than a farmer with grains and oilseeds. The limits being discussed could cause numerous family operations to abandon farming or shift their production into grains and oilseeds—crops where payment limitations have less impact.  Out west, family farms will switch to specialty crops with the potential for severe disruptions in much narrower markets. It is also likely that many landlords will shift to cash rent. The loss of share rent agreements, an effective risk-sharing arrangement, will subject tenant farmers to greater risk exposure and increased difficulty in financing.

The U.S. textile industry, our best customer, has cut production and employment in the face of an avalanche of cheap imported products. China has outstripped virtually all predictions of its capacity to manufacture goods and serve the western markets – dramatically changing the international economic landscape.  China remains hesitant about opening its markets.  Many of these developments are beyond our control.  Others will require the support and assistance of our government agencies and Congress.

It is vital that the U.S. has a stable, predictable and equitable farm policy. U.S. agricultural policy is not just about loan rates and payment limits. Renewable fuel policy is critical to reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. Effective conservation programs will ensure the protection of our tremendously productive soil and water resources. All these components are necessary in order to permit U.S. consumers continued access to the safest, most affordable and most stable supply of food and fiber in the world.

Limiting our access to a financial safety-net is not in the best interest of the U.S. rural economy, production agriculture or the U.S. consumer. Current farm law needs to remain intact. This is particularly critical as we attempt to conclude a critical round of international trade negotiations.  We appreciate your support and encourage you to be certain that your colleagues from outside the Sun Belt understand the importance of maintaining the structure of the 2002 farm law.

Sincerely,

Mike Alexander-  Colorado City, TX
Ramon “Dosi” Alvarez-  Mesquite, NM
Coley Bailey, Jr.-  Grenada, MS
Debra Barrett-  Edroy, TX
Laudies Brantley-  England, AR
Dan Branton-  Leland, MS
Jay Brinn-   Belhaven, NC
Cecil Byrum-  Windsor, VA
Justin Cariker-   Dundee, MS
Danny Davis-  Elk City, OK
Sonny Davis-  Cottondale, FL
Jimmy Dodson-  Robstown, TX
Barry Evans-  Kress, TX
Stoney Hargett-  Alamo, TN
Boyd Holley-  Bastrop, LA
Leona Kakar-  Maricopa, AZ
C.B. King-  Pelahatchie, MS
Henry Locklear-  Maxton, NC
Mark McKean-  Riverdale, CA
Robert Miller-  Wellington, KS
Mark Mobley-  Doerun, GA
Charles Parker-  Senath, MO
Frank Rogers-  Bennettsville, SC
Kevin Rogers-  Mesa, AZ
Jack Seiler-  Blythe, CA
Bobby Skov-  Clint, TX
Kenneth Ray Sneed-  Millington, TN
Mike Tate-  Hazel Green, AL

cc:    The Honorable Kent Conrad, Ranking Member
         Committee on Budget

        The Honorable Tom Harkin, Ranking Member
        Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry