Farm Law Changes, Tighter Payment Limits Would Harm Arizona and Western Agriculture
Arizona cotton producers offered their thoughts to USDA Deputy Undersecretary Mark Rey 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.
PHOENIX, Ariz. – Arizona cotton producers offered their thoughts to USDA Deputy Undersecretary Mark Rey 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 Wednesday at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Phoenix, Goodyear cotton producer Ron Rayner told Rey that the current farm law addresses competitiveness and allows U.S. cotton producers to compete in foreign markets.
“The current farm bill has not discouraged new and next generation farms in our area,” Rayner said. “I have seen more young people become successful operators in the last few years than any other time of my life, I presume, in large part, due to the stability and safety net provided by the 2002 Bill.”
Rayner said the decoupled aspect of the current farm law ensures that producers plant for markets rather than for a program and the marketing loan program puts a low safety net under production but still allows crops to move to market, avoiding the old government owned reserves of surplus commodities that became price depressants for future years.
Tom Isom, a Case Grande cotton producer, said that if any of the current farm law components are removed or restricted in the 2007 farm bill, “it would have a very negative impact on production agriculture and agribusiness in Arizona and the entire Southwest.”
Bruce Heiden, a Buckeye cotton producer echoed that statement saying, “Today, farmers face different risks than the vast majority of businesses. 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.”
Clyde Sharp, a Roll cotton producer, said the current farm law also is essential to capitalizing the commercial-size agricultural enterprises throughout the West.
“If lower payments limits are imposed or payments rates are modified, the West, in particular, will be substantially harmed,” Sharp said. “For example, if the Grassley amendment would have passed, 62 percent of the Arizona producers would have been affected, which is the largest percentage in the country. We urge you to be cautious in pursuing radical reform. What we need is predictability, a program that keeps us competitive and that is reflective and supportive of the economic world in which we operate.”
Last week, a bi-partisan coalition of Senators from across the country successfully prevented a damaging and divisive amendment to change payment limitations on farm programs from being added to the Senate’s budget reconciliation legislation.
The National Cotton Council (NCC) and virtually every commodity and farm organization had urged rejection of the Grassley-Dorgan amendment, which was defeated by the Senate on a procedural vote.
In urging the House and Conference Committee to reject any similar amendments, NCC Chairman Woods Eastland of Greenwood, Miss., says, “the proponents of this amendment are apparently determined to drive a wedge between different segments of agriculture. It is especially unfortunate that organizations supporting the amendment misled farmers and the public by asserting that the change would benefit family farmers, when in fact there were no provisions to increase investment in family farms or in the production of food and fiber.”