|New FSA Guidelines Proposed|
USDA issued a proposed regulation establishing new guidelines for USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) County Committee elections.
Secretary Ann Veneman said, “these guidelines better define the County Committee election process….the proposed reforms will help encourage participation by minority and under-represented producers on County Committees.” The Secretary is authorized by provisions in the ’02 farm law to issue uniform guidelines governing the County Committee election process.
The proposed guidelines are open for public comment for 30 days and will not become final until USDA has received and considered public comments. The proposed revisions allow the Secretary or the State Committee to nominate up to 2 individuals from the group defined in law as “socially disadvantaged farmers” to be placed on the FSA County Committee election ballot. If the Secretary or the State Committee does not exercise their authority, then the County Committee shall nominate 2 individuals to be placed on the ballot. The proposal reduces from 3 to 2 the number of consecutive 3-year terms that a County Committee member may serve effective with the ’05 election. The nomination period for the ’04 elections closes Sept. 3, ’04. Producers will receive ballots during the week of Nov. 7 and they must be returned to the local FSA office by Dec. 6, ’04. Details on FSA County Committee elections and the Federal Register notice can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov.
|CRP Comments Requested|
USDA is seeking public comments on the management of expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage beginning in ’07. Between Sept. 30, ’07-’10, more than 28.7 million acres of CRP enrollment rental arrangements are set to expire. The Department intends to offer early re-enrollments and extensions of existing contracts. The current farm bill authorizes enrollment up to 39.2 million acres.
USDA expects the contract expirations and re-enrollment or replacement of expiring contracts to present management challenges for the agency. Specific concerns relate to CRP environmental benefits, USDA staffing needs and technical service provider resources.
USDA has issued a request for comments on a number of aspects of the CRP enrollments’ next phase. To facilitate this public comment request, USDA’s Farm Service Agency has developed an online questionnaire that may be submitted. The complete Federal Register comment request and information on the questionnaire can be found at: www.fsa.usda.gov/crpcomments/. Comments are due by Dec. 8, ’04.
|NCC: Each Vote Counts|
NCC members are encouraged to register and vote in the primaries and in the general election in November. Family members, employees, business associates and friends also should be encouraged to register and vote. Virtually every poll indicates the US presidential race is a toss-up. In addition, there are a number of key House and Senate races in Cotton Belt states, which could determine which party controls the 108th Congress and the legislative agenda. Every vote counts and registering to vote is easy, just go to http://cotton.helpingamericansvote.org.
To register or update one’s voter registration, select the appropriate state from the drop-down menu. A PDF with voter registration information and the necessary form will open. Print the instructions and registration form. Once the form is completed, mail it to the address provided on the site. NCC members are encouraged to forward this link to employees, family and friends.
"HelpingAmericansVote.Org" is a non-partisan service that provides information about voter registration, plus early and absentee voting that will inform one about voting options in each state that can make participation easier.
|Bush Signs Morocco FTA Legislation|
President Bush signed the legislation implementing the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement on Aug. 17. The US now has FTAs with Jordan and Israel in the Middle East region. The President previously has announced a goal of establishing a US-Middle East Free Trade area by ’13.
The NCC and textile interests communicated their opposition to the Moroccan FTA because it includes provisions that allow Moroccan apparel manufacturers to utilize components produced in non-participating third countries to assemble apparel products, which enter the US duty-free. US agriculture interests supported the agreement because Morocco agreed to reduce tariffs and open markets to US grains, meat and dairy products, processed foods, and specialty crops.
Congress approved the legislation necessary to implement the agreement on a strong bi-partisan vote prior to adjourning for the Aug. recess.
|Congressional Staffers Tour Western Cotton Operations|
Legislative assistants representing 10 key House and Senate offices visited the Lubbock and Phoenix areas where they met local grower leaders and toured USDA research facilities, including the ARS gin lab and plant breeding facility in Lubbock and the Pink Bollworm rearing and aflatoxin facilities in Phoenix.
While in Lubbock, the group was briefed on local issues and crop conditions by the Plains Cotton Growers, received a progress report on the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program and toured the Plains Cotton Cooperative Oil Mill and Coop Warehouse and Compress. In Phoenix, the group met representatives of the Arizona Cotton Growers and Arizona Cotton Ginners Associations and toured ARS and Arizona Cotton Improvement facilities. The group also toured the Hoover Dam as guests of the US Department of Interior where they learned more about the role of the Bureau of Reclamation in delivering irrigation water to agricultural lands.
The annual orientation and education programs for Congressional staff are made possible by a grant from Monsanto to The Cotton Foundation.
|NCC Board to Convene|
The NCC will conduct its mid-year Board of Directors meeting Aug. 26-27 at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.
The open session on the afternoon of Aug. 26 will feature reports from NCC Chairman Woody Anderson, Cotton Council International President Robert Norris, Cotton Foundation President Allen Helms, Jr., Committee for the Advancement of Cotton Chairman Bruce Heiden and National Council of Textile Organizations PresidentCass Johnson. NCC senior staff will provide briefings on the economic situation, Washington activities and trade issues.
The directors’ executive session will be held Aug. 27.
|EPA Extends Deadline for Oil Spill Prevention Measures|
EPA issued a Final Rule (69 FR 48794) extending for 18 months the compliance dates for the July ’02 Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC ) Plan amendments.
EPA regulates oil discharges of any kind under these regulations, which were first issued in ’73. Cotton farms, gins and cottonseed oil mills that store oil (1,320 gallons or greater) in above ground storage that could discharge oil into or on US navigable waters must comply with these regulations. An onshore or offshore facility that was in operation on or before Aug. 16, ’02 must: 1) maintain its Plan and, amend it if necessary, to ensure compliance, on or before Feb. 17, ’06, and 2) implement the amended SPCC Plan as soon as possible, but not later than Aug. 18, ’06.
In light of a recent partial settlement of litigation involving the July ’02 amendments, EPA issued the extension to, among other things, provide sufficient time for the regulated community to undertake the actions necessary to update (or prepare) their plans. EPA is expected to propose, in a separate rulemaking, a further 2-year extension to consider amendments for oil-filled equipment, motive power and small facilities with regard to professional engineering requirements. An extension to consider these amendments would be helpful to agriculture and agricultural processing.
NCC is working with several coalitions to help farms, gins and oil mills on this issue.
|Biotechnology Pharmaceutical Crops Must be Revealed|
A Judge in the 9th circuit court ruled that biotech test plots for Plant Made Pharmaceuticals (PMPs) in Hawaii have to be disclosed to the public. Lawsuits were filed by public interest activist groups in order to force the government to conduct environmental assessments on crops they deem dangerous.
PMPs are a new breed of biotechnology that utilizes crops such as corn or rice to manufacture proteins and enzymes that are either utilized in the production of pharmaceuticals or are consumed as the pharmaceutical itself. Hawaii, because of favorable climate conditions, is a favored spot for test plots of experimental biotechnology products.
The industry is concerned that the location of their plots, if released, will promote vandalism and destruction of their test plots, which are authorized by USDA-APHIS after being reviewed for safety to the environment. Crop destruction protests are more common in Europe and other parts of the world, but information regarding the location of industry cooperators has, until now, been treated as confidential business information.
The NCC will monitor for any developments that may occur from the release of this information and will take appropriate action to insure the continued development of beneficial technologies to American agriculture. Work also will be done to support the current regulatory system in lieu of a stricter regulatory system imposed by litigation instead of sound science.
|Judge Dismisses Litigation Against Endangered Species Task Force|
A judge recently dismissed a case filed by the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC) against the EPA for allegedly allowing industry to influence EPA policy with regard to its review for endangered species effects on pesticides. The group, the FIFRA Endangered Species Task Force (FESTF), is comprised of industry technology providers working to meet EPA data requirements to provide information on the potential impacts of pesticides on listed species.
The lawsuit contended that the FESTF was an advisory committee regulated by federal law, and to be open and transparent in its discussions and with its information. The coordination of industry groups to meet joint data requirements by the EPA is allowed under FIFRA, and is not considered an advisory committee. The judge dismissed the case based on a lack of evidence from WTC that the FESTF was an advisory committee, but the case is still significant as the judge ruled that the WTC did have the right to pursue the litigation.
Adverse rulings against industry’s ability to jointly meet data requirements could mean industry would have to do similar research independently, which is costly, and delays the registration of pesticides and biotech products. The NCC favors the current application of FIFRA to allow such cooperation between registrants to occur, and will continue to monitor this issue for additional developments in the future.
|Export Sales Continue Strong Pace|
Net export sales for the week ending Aug. 12, ’04 were 248,200 bales (480-lb.), resulting in total ’04-05 sales of about 4.9 million bales. Total sales at the same point in the ’03-04 marketing year were slightly more than 3.2 million bales. Total new crop (’05-06) sales are 154,700 bales.
Shipments for the week were 262,000 bales, bringing total exports to date to 435,700 bales, below 562,000 bales at the comparable point in the ’03-04 marketing year.
|Prices Effective Aug. 20-26, '04|