The new farm law enactment schedule is uncertain so the National Cotton Council will continue to communicate the U.S. cotton industry’s priorities – including an effective safety net – to Congress.
What farm bill opportunity was recently missed in 2011?
It initially appeared that Congress might agree to lock in $23 billion as U.S. agriculture’s share of federal deficit reduction. House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairs Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) crafted a plan that would have achieved the savings while offering farmers 1) a choice of programs that fit their region and cropping patterns and 2) the certainty of knowing what policy would be in place when the current farm law expires. The plan, which was developed for consideration by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, also included recommendations by the cotton industry that would have met the budget targets and served as a basis to resolve the long- standing U.S.-Brazil World Trade Organ-ization dispute – thus eliminating the threat of retaliation against U.S. exports. The proposal also included continuation of the marketing loan and the economic adjustment assistance program for manufacturers, which are top industry priorities.
What’s the farm bill development timetable?
It is unfortunate that the Joint Committee could not develop a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that included solid farm policy. Congress likely will begin the debate on deficit reduction and farm policy under a more complicated and time consuming process known as “regular order.” That process involves re-evaluation of all options and requires hearings, committee mark-ups and floor debates, so it is unlikely new legislation can be enacted before late this year. Because this is a presidential election year and the entire House and one-third of the Senate are also up, it would not be surprising if a new farm bill is not adopted until after the elections or is delayed until 2013.
What’s the NCC’s current course of action?
The NCC has consistently reminded Congress that the cost for all commodity, conservation and crop insurance programs is less than two percent of the federal budget. We remain concerned, though, about the deep divisions that emerged during debate on farm policy in late 2011. Thus, we are encouraging all commodity groups to work together. The cotton industry, with its unique challenges, must coalesce around a policy and strategy or risk failure.
The cotton industry leaders who developed STAX (cotton’s shallow loss, area revenue insurance program) did their best to address budget, trade and political considerations. If STAX is not included in future farm legislation, then cotton could be pushed into a one-size-fits-all revenue program similar to ACRE. That option does not address our industry’s requirements and – failing to address the Brazil case – could lead to a damaging trade dispute. Our industry also must continue to work to extend the marketing loan program that has served the industry so well and pursue reasonable payment limitation and income tests if they are deemed to be politically necessary.
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.