|House Passes Minimum Wage Bill|
The House passed a minimum wage increase bill by 315-116 with 82 Republicans joining 233 Democrats to support the measure that would increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour over two years.
The minimum wage would be increased to $5.85 within 60 days of enactment, to $6.55 after one year and $7.25 the following year. An alternative proposal unveiled by Reps. McCrery (R-LA) and McKeon (R-CA) would have packaged the minimum wage increase with tax breaks and an Association Health Plan.
While the House measure does not include accompanying tax breaks, Senate Democrats and Republican leaders indicated they expect to add a package of small business tax breaks when the Senate considers the measure. However, the Association Health Plan is not expected to be part of the package. Sen. Enzi (R-WY), ranking member of the Health, Education and Labor and Pension’s Committee, said bipartisan talks on Association Health Plans were yielding progress and “there is no reason to force the issue.”Association Health Plans allow small businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance. The NCC and National Cotton Ginners Assoc. consistently have supported legislation authorizing the establishment of AHPs, which would allow employers to provide more affordable health insurance to employees.
|Congressional Ag Panels Set|
Memberships of House and Senate Agriculture committees have been set for the first session of the 110th Congress.
The House Agriculture Committee is comprised of 25 Democrats: Collin Peterson (MN) – Chair, Tim Holden (PA), Mike McIntyre (NC), Bob Etheridge (NC), Leonard Boswell (IA), Joe Baca (CA), Dennis Cardoza (CA), David Scott (GA), Jim Marshall (GA), Stephanie Herseth (SD), Henry Cuellar (TX), Jim Costa (CA), John Salazar (CO), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Nancy Boyda (KS), Zack Space (OH), Tim Walz (MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Steve Kagen (WI), Earl Pomeroy (ND), Lincoln Davis (TN), John Barrow (GA), Nick Lampson (TX), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Tim Mahoney (FL), and 21 Republicans: Bob Goodlatte (VA), Terry Everett (AL), Frank Lucas (OK), Jerry Moran (KS), Robin Hayes (NC), Timothy Johnson (IL), Sam Graves (MO), Jo Bonner (AL), Mike Rogers (AL), Steve King (IA), Marilyn Musgrave (CO), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Charles Boustany (LA), Randy Kuhl (NY), Virginia Foxx (NC), Michael Conaway (Texas), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Jean Schmidt (OH), Adrian Smith (NE), Kevin McCarthy (CA) and Timothy Walberg (MI).The Senate Agriculture Committee is comprised of 11 Democrats: Tom Harkin (IA) – Chair, Patrick J. Leahy (VT), Kent Conrad (ND), Max Baucus (MT), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Debbie Stabenow (MI), E. Benjamin Nelson (NE), Ken Salazar (CO), Sherrod Brown (OH), Robert Casey Jr. (PA) and Amy Klobuchar (MN), and 10 Republicans: Saxby Chambliss (GA), Richard Lugar (IN), Thad Cochran (MS), Mitch McConnell (KY), Pat Roberts (KS), Lindsey Graham (SC), Norm Coleman (MN), Mike Crapo (ID), John Thune (SD) and Charles Grassley (IA).
|Farm Bill Needs Equity, Predictability|
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told ’07 Beltwide Cotton Conferences’ attendees in New Orleans that advances in technology and genetics have transformed our agriculture industry, and that USDA was proud of its role in the boll weevil and pink boll worm eradication efforts.
Noting he was confident the Administration can put forth proposals that provide an important safety net in support for agriculture, he stated that support must ensure the longevity and the continued growth of the agriculture industry. He said the Administration’s proposals will ensure support for American farmers and ranchers that bring more equity and predictability to farm programs while minimizing vulnerability to international challenges.
Johanns stated that the loss of the Brazilian WTO cotton case likely had contributed to Canada’s request for consultations on the US corn program, which could lead to a WTO corn case and that Uruguay has expressed concern about the US rice program. He reported that US agricultural exports could reach a record $77 billion this year, and that US farm policy must be consistent with its trade agenda.
In the forum’s opening remarks, NCC Chairman Allen Helms told attendees that among the industry’s many challenges, including new farm policy and international trade commitments -- research, education and technology transfer continue to be critically important. He encouraged full participation in the Conferences and said they are excellent examples of the efforts underway in a wide array of scientific disciplines to lower costs and apply technology to a host of problems and opportunities.
Cotton Incorporated President/CEO Berrye Worsham’s report noted that the interest in sustainability at the retail, brand and mill level is real and not likely to go away, but, there are opportunities for cotton. Many brands and retailers are starting sustainable or environmental programs based on inaccurate information about cotton, he said, and Cotton Incorporated and the NCC are addressing the misinformation in the marketplace and creating a positive image for US cotton.
During a news briefing for media attending the conferences, Cotton Council International (CCI) President David Burns said the battleground of cotton versus synthetics remains US cotton’s greatest challenge.“I had this driven home to me on my CCI president’s tour in May, 2006 when I visited India and China,” the North Carolina producer said. “Without promotion, there is a good chance that the march of synthetics in those countries will displace cotton.”
|USDA Increases Crop and Reduces Offtake|
In its January crop report, USDA estimated a ’06-07 US crop of 21.73 million bales, up 400,000 bales from the December estimate. Upland production is estimated at 20.97 million bales and ELS production at 756,000 bales. Harvested area stands at 12.73 million acres, implying non-harvested area of 2.5 million acres. The national average yield per harvested acre was estimated to be 819 pounds -- 60 pounds above the five-year average. State-level estimates are available at http://www.cotton.org/econ/cropinfo/production/production.cfm.
Projected US ’06-07 mill use was decreased 100,000 bales to 5.00 million, based on lower than expected activity to date, while exports were decreased 300,000 bales to 15.70 million as sales and shipments to China continue to lag year-ago levels.
As a result, projected total offtake decreased 400,000 bales to 20.70 million. This generates an ending stocks value of 7.10 million bales. The projected stocks-to-use use ratio is 34.3%.
The USDA report raised ’06-07 world production 140,000 bales to an estimated 116.72 million from December’s report. The beginning stocks estimate was raised 100,000 bales to 54.33 million. Combining those stocks with imports of 40.83 million bales results in a world supply of 211.88 million bales. Projected world mill use was increased 170,000 bales to 121.17 million.
The projected world ending stocks for ’06-07 is now pegged at 52.26 million bales. This has a corresponding stocks-to-use ratio of 43.1%.
|NYBOT to Begin Electronic Trading|
With the expected completion of the merger between Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT), electronic trading of NYBOT’s agricultural commodity contracts, including cotton, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 19.
NYBOT’s open outcry trading hours will remain unchanged. Electronic markets are expected to be available from 8 p.m. ET the prior evening until 6 p.m. ET of the trade date. Contract specifications and commodity codes will remain unchanged for both floor and electronic contracts, which will be fungible with one another.ICE announced that there will be no changes to the current NYBOT exchange fee structure, with floor and screen trades offered at existing, equivalent rates. Access to electronic trading will be available to qualified individuals, regardless of membership status. Further details of the upcoming changes can be found at http://www.nybot.com.
|NCC Annual Meeting Deadlines Draw Near|
Jan. 15 is the deadline for making hotel reservations for the NCC’s ’07 Annual Meeting to be held at the Hilton Austin in Austin, TX, Feb. 1-5. The meeting registration deadline is Jan. 19. Registration and hotel reservations both can be made online by going to http://www.cotton.org/events/amreg. Rooms also may be reserved by calling the hotel directly at 1-800-236-1592. Discounted air fare on American and Northwest airlines is available through Travelennium, by calling Mary Saemenes at 800-844-4924, ext. 318.
NCC Chairman Allen Helms will address the Feb. 5 general session along with Jeffrey Rosensweig, the director of Emory U.’s Global Perspectives Program.
Among other important convention sessions will be the Feb. 2 American Cotton Producers meeting, which will include remarks from newly-appointed Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Mark Keenum and a presentation from NCC’s Economic Services regarding their planting intentions survey results.
On Feb. 3, the delegates will hear the NCC’s Economic Outlook and a Cotton Incorporated report from Berrye Worsham. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) will address the National Cotton Ginners Assoc. annual meeting that afternoon.The Saturday luncheon will feature Michael Gerson, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Newsweek magazine contributor.
|Plant Breeding Chair Created|
Texas A&M U. Agriculture and Monsanto Company announced the creation of the Borlaug-Monsanto Chair for Plant Breeding and International Crop Improvement. The announcement came at the ’07 Beltwide Cotton Conferences.
The chair is in honor of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who won the ’70 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in plant breeding. He is a distinguished professor of international agriculture at A&M.
From Monsanto’s $2.5 million endowment, $2 million will fund the chair and the remaining $500,000 will endow an assistantship fund to support graduate-level research by young scientists pursuing careers in plant breeding, cotton crop improvement and production. These assistantships also will be used to support cotton research focused on US crop improvement and production systems.
|Percy Receives Genetics Award|
Dr. Richard G. Percy, a USDA Agricultural Research Service research geneticist at the Western Cotton Research Laboratory in Maricopa, AZ, received the ’06 Cotton Genetics Research Award at the Beltwide Cotton Improvement Conference.Dr. Percy, who received $1,000 in recognition of his efforts, works in the cotton physiology, genetics and host plant resistance research unit. He also is an adjunct professor of Plant Sciences at the U. of Arizona. Throughout his career, Dr. Percy has demonstrated a multidisciplinary approach to identify and ameliorate limiting factors in the production of high quality cotton.
|Shipments Steady, Sales Lag|
Net export sales for the week ending Jan. 4 were 52,200 bales (480-lb.). This brings total ’06-07 sales to approximately 6.3 million. Total sales at the same point in the ’05-06 marketing year were approximately 10.6 million bales. Total new crop (’07-08) sales are 257,200 bales.
Shipments for the week were 176,100 bales, bringing total exports to date to 3.3 million bales, compared with the 5.0 million at the comparable point in the ’05-06 marketing year.
|Prices Effective Jan. 12-18, '07|