LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas cotton producers offered their thoughts to Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner about why they believe it is important that the structure of the 2002 farm bill be maintained for its duration – through the completion of the 2007 crop – and why the current law should be the foundation for U.S. farm policy beyond 2007.
Speaking at a USDA farm bill listening session here today at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds, Dow Brantley, an England cotton producer, said that a stable and consistent farm program provides an essential foundation upon which growers can the make long-term investments necessary in today’s agriculture. He said that the current program provides planting flexibility to growers and an effective safety net in times of low prices plus it has minimal impacts on overall plantings and prices.
“Today, farmers face different risks than the vast majority of businesses,” Brantley explained. “Many factors are beyond a farmer’s control: a strong dollar, unanticipated oversupply in high production years, depressed prices and destructive natural events that can wipe out an entire crop. An effective farm program is essential to cotton producers and provides stability in production, financing and marketing.
John Stuckey, a Trumann cotton producer, remarked that any policy change that would reduce the level of support directed to farmers or that imposes stricter payment limits would adversely affect beginning farmers and small operators.
In noting that changes in limitations also likely will result in a shift in production to other crops, Stuckey said a federal Payment Limit Commission found that limitations affect cotton and rice farmers disproportionately compared to feed grain, oilseed and wheat farmers.
Stuckey also pointed out that changes in eligibility rules force changes in rental contracts with the possible consequence of forcing landlords to cash rent rather than share rent land. This change would adversely affect beginning farmers and small operators who are normally unable to obtain production financing on cash rent operations.
“Agriculture in Arkansas would be severely harmed by more restrictive payment limits,” Stuckey said. “Analysis by the Payment Limit Commission indicated that tighter limits on contract payments under the ’96 farm bill would have taken more than $75 million from Arkansas farmers.”
Pickens cotton producer John Lambi told Deputy Secretary Conner that, “It is important to note that more restrictive payment limits would also hurt our international competitiveness by restricting farm size to a level that is, in many cases, less than economically efficient.”