The National Cotton Council continues to tackle an extensive agenda aimed at keeping U.S. cotton
competitive – from advocating policy positions to engaging government agencies when regulatory
What farm policy message is being relayed?
Congressional hearings on 2012 farm bill development have begun, and the NCC’s message consistently emphasizes that effective farm policy should: 1) be market-oriented with a goal of promoting quality, efficiency and domestic competition; 2) allow for full production to meet market demand; 3) provide for an effective financial safety net; 4) ensure the availability of competitively priced U.S. cotton to domestic and international textile mills; and 5) encourage maximum participation without regard to farm size or structure. Our testimony also notes that the 2008 farm bill meets most of these principles and has worked well.
Fundamentally, we continue to support current cotton program components, from the marketing loan to direct and counter-cyclical payments. We support a permanent natural disaster program as part of the farm bill, and believe crop in-surance is an essential risk management tool. While we support a viable bio-fuels industry, it must be recognized that benefits are not equally shared by all commodity producers. The support given to bio-fuel crops must be taken into consideration when comparing relative levels of support across commodities, when evaluating payment limitations and before trying to mandate a one-size-fits-all farm program for bio-fuel and non-bio-fuel commodities. If policy changes are inevitable as part of the 2012 farm bill, the cotton industry – with guidance from its Farm Policy Task Force – will work with the Congressional agriculture committees to explore alternative programs that can provide a needed safety net in a manner consistent with our international trade obligations and within budget constraints.
How about trade policy?
The NCC has been encouraged by recent comments from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office regarding the WTO’s Doha round. Our ambassador has stated that the July 2008 draft agricultural text is not acceptable because it is neither balanced nor ambitious. U.S. officials also have warned that a final Doha agreement based on the current draft negotiating texts would stand little chance of securing approval from the U.S. Congress – and that China, India and Brazil would have to offer increased market access before serious U.S. consideration would be given.
What is the most pressing regulatory issue?
Agricultural groups, including the NCC, are troubled over certain language in a draft general permit EPA is proposing regarding certain pesticide applications made directly to, over or near U.S. water bodies. The draft general permit also states, for example, that all operators must minimize pesticide discharges into U.S. waters by “using the lowest effective amount of pesticide product per application and optimum frequency of application to control the target pest.” A major concern is the permit’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act, which may lead EPA to consider adding permit conditions that could include additional effluent limitations, monitoring, planning, recordkeeping and/or reporting. The NCC is planning to submit comments on the draft permit in July and will continue dialogue with the agency on this issue.
Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.