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In This Issue
Tough Farmers
Record Prices Excite Texas Ginners
Multi-Option Program Begins At Burndown
Big Crowds Expected At California Show
USDA Increases Assistance To Military
Cottonseed Oil In Beignets?
New Calif. Ag Leader Earns Praise
Cotton's Agenda: Raising Beltway Awareness
What Customers Want: Fabric Quality Helps Deliver Best Garments
Farm Bureau Wants Safety Net
Value Of Foliar Feeding And Petiole Testing
Upbeat Mood Evident At BWCC In Atlanta
Mark Nemec — 2010 CCOY winner
California Ag Tries To Adjust To Budget Cuts
Mid-South Gin Show
Clinton, Stabenow To Speak At Ag Forum
Editor's Note: Memorable Road Trip To North Alabama
Industry Comments
Web Poll: Potential Effects Of 2010 Elections
Viewpoint: How Cotton Cleaned Up Its Act
Specialists Speaking
Cotton Ginners Marketplace: BWCC Ginning Conference Discusses ‘Capacity Robbers’
Industry News
Cotton Consultants Corner: Variety Selection, Residuals Are Key
My Turn: A Year Of Changes

Raising Beltway Awareness

BY Mark Lange
NCC President/CEO
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While U.S. cotton farmers plan for a new growing season, the National Cotton Council will be “starting over” in 2011 as it applies to enlightening the 112th Congress to agriculture, including the need for maintaining a sound farm law with an effective safety net.

Why the huge education challenge?

There are 91 new House Members, including a new chairman of its agriculture committee, Rep. Lucas (R-Okla.). Ten of that panel’s members have cotton in their districts. The Senate has 16 new Members, including four new Cotton Belt Members, but the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee has only three Cotton Belt Members working under a new chairman, Sen. Stabenow (D-Mich.). The agriculture panels must be thoroughly oriented to U.S. cotton’s contributions to this nation – and to the cotton industry’s needs in terms of farm policy and reasonable and responsible government regulations.
The challenge will be formidable as new House rules, for example, call for all spending increases to be offset with a separate vote required to raise the debt limit. The House Republican agenda includes a focus on banning earmarks and reducing discretionary spending by 21 percent. The President’s budget proposal is due in early February, but the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform already has suggested a $10 billion cut to agriculture programs, one that would affect direct payments, conservation programs and the highly successful Market Access Program.

What about the 2012 Farm Bill?

Fortunately, Chairman Lucas does not consider 2011 a deadline for writing that law – which will give us more education opportunities. However, preserving the budget baseline will be a challenge as 38 programs are unfunded and $8 billion will be needed to reauthorize them. Among the questions that will be addressed are: is more reform and equity needed, should direct payments be cut or used for other programs; does the ACRE program need to be changed; does the SURE program need to be maintained and altered in any way; and can the farm law be effectively simplified and will it be WTO-compliant?

How will high cotton prices factor into the Farm Bill development process?

The cotton market is experiencing unprecedented prices. Farm program critics – as they did when the 1996 farm law was being developed – will claim that we’ve reached a new plateau in prices, and programs no longer are needed. High prices will lower projected spending levels on price-dependent programs such as the counter-cyclical payment program and the marketing loan. While that’s the programs’ intent, it heightens the focus on direct payments as essentially the only projected source of spending in the current farm program. Budget hawks will seek to cut direct payments as a means of generating savings, while those seeking a different farm program will view direct payments as a source of funding that can be redirected to other programs. Our challenge will be to maintain a farm program that provides an effective safety net when low prices return and work to keep the tools and programs in place that meet our needs in all types of markets.

Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.

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