MEMPHIS – The National Cotton Council said the Bush Administration’s 2007 budget, as proposed, will disrupt current farm programs and undercut American agriculture, including the nation’s cotton producers.
“Agriculture should not be asked to bear a disproportionate share of the federal deficit trimming process,” NCC Chairman Woods Eastland said. “We urge Congress to carefully weigh options in the budget debate so that U.S. agriculture is not weakened.”
Eastland said a budget that significantly affects federal farm law and the multi-year contract on which thousands of farm families make their business and investment decisions also would seriously undermine the security of all Americans.
“Any reduction or weakening of the safety net provided by the 2002 farm law could result in price volatility and supply difficulties with our food and fiber markets similar to what we have experienced from our reliance on imported energy,” the Greenwood, MS, cooperative official said.
Eastland said the nation’s farmers already are making planting decisions for 2006, and adding uncertainty to their eligibility for program support could cause many to make decisions based on unclear, ill-defined prospective changes in federal legislation, rather than market signals.
“Agriculture should not be asked for greater sacrifice than other federal departments, and certainly no farm sector or region should be targeted,” Eastland said. “Altering the safety net of the farm law before its scheduled expiration creates enormous uncertainty for farmers who already must contend with market instability, unpredictable weather and variable fuel, energy and other supply costs. This is not the time for major changes in U.S. farm law.”
Eastland said that the stability provided by the 2002 farm program, written to last through the 2007 crop year, has allowed unprecedented growth in farm investment, while underpinning an industry that contributes 15 percent of the nation’s GDP.
“Federal budget deficits adversely impact the entire American economy and efforts to address deficits should strive for equity in sharing the pain of adjustment,” Eastland said. “Spending on commodity and conservation agriculture programs account for less than 1.5 percent of total mandatory spending, yet commodity programs are being asked to shoulder more than eight percent of required reductions. Agriculture should not be singled out or asked for greater sacrifice than other federal departments.”
Because the World Trade Organization Doha Round talks still are underway, Eastland said that any reduction in U.S. agricultural support prior to the completion of these international trade negotiations would be the equivalent of unilateral disarmament.
“Substantial changes in U.S. commodity programs can weaken our negotiating position, undermine current proposals, and send the wrong signal to other WTO member countries,” Eastland said. “Should the U.S. unilaterally disarm in agriculture, there will be little reason for other countries to reduce subsidies or open their markets to U.S. agricultural products.”
As the unifying force of the U.S. cotton industry, the Memphis-based National Cotton Council brings together industry representatives from the 17 cotton-producing states to establish policies reflecting the common interests and promoting mutual benefits for its broad membership and ancillary industries. The NCC’s mission is ensuring the ability of all industry segments to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.