MEMPHIS -- The National Cotton Council (NCC) extended its appreciation to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R-OK), along with Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN), for their introduction of farm legislation that includes provisions supported by the cotton industry.
NCC Chairman Chuck Coley said, "We encourage members of the Agriculture Committee to pass the bill as introduced in the discussion draft of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act. Passage of the proposed legislation would be an important step to providing some certainty and predictability for farm programs, thus allowing the long-term investments necessary for maintaining our productivity and economic viability."
"By providing cotton producers a choice of the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) or the new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) enhancement to crop insurance and a modified marketing loan," Coley stated, "Chairman Lucas has offered programs that provide a safety net for upland cotton, while also offering a clear path to resolution of the Brazil case."
The Georgia producer emphasized that, "Given the diversity of U.S. agriculture, we are pleased that the range of programs provides choices that offer a balanced safety net across commodities and regions, yet still allowing market-driven planting decision." While acknowledging the daunting challenge of maintaining a reasonable safety net given current budget constraints, Coley urged no further commodity cuts be adopted beyond those included in the proposed legislation.
He said the improvements to crop insurance, including making enterprise units with irrigated and non-irrigated provisions permanent and establishing the new SCO available to all growers, will provide important risk management options for cotton growers.
Coley expressed appreciation for the reasonable approach taken by the Chairman and Ranking Member regarding payment limits and income means tests.
"While we continue to oppose limitations on benefits and income eligibility tests, regrettably such restrictions are an inevitable feature of farm legislation," Coley said. "We are encouraged that the Committee leaders are extending current policy of not placing limits on marketing loan benefits or any restrictions on the availability of insurance products."
Coley said extension of the extra-long staple cotton loan and competitiveness provisions are important to Western cotton growers. He also expressed thanks to the Agriculture Committee's leadership for extending the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP) for U.S. cotton manufacturers. Authorized in the 2008 farm bill, the EAAP is boosting the U.S. textile manufacturing sector and adding jobs to the U.S. economy.
Other positive features are the 1) continuation/streamlining of conservation programs and 2) ongoing support of the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program -- two important trade titles that undergird U.S. cotton exports.
"Passage of this legislation by the Agriculture Committee will be an important step in the farm bill process," Coley stated. "We look forward to working with the Committee leadership as the bill moves forward."