While new challenges undoubtedly will arise in 2013, there are several ongoing issues threatening U.S. cotton’s viability that also will require considerable attention from the National Cotton Council.
What about farm bill passage?
Last year we were active participants in a coalition of U.S. agricultural organizations to raise awareness of Congress' need to pass a new, comprehensive, five-year farm bill before current farm programs expired in September 2012. Activities included a letter to House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging them to schedule time for the FARRM Act on the House floor. The Senate passed its farm bill but, unfortunately, the 2012 elections pushed the farm bill off the front burner. The NCC did continue to monitor moves that 1) would extend current law and 2) potentially have the new farm bill included in a final budget package relative to the fiscal cliff concern. The NCC will be actively engaged at every step and keep its members apprised to help them make 2013 production season plans.
How about trade matters?
First of all, as part of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Doha negotiating agenda, U.S. cotton will continue to push that any
cotton program changes must be part of, and not in advance of, an overall comprehensive agreement. The industry also maintains its commitment to permanently resolving the U.S.-Brazil WTO case. We are convinced that the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) represents the best opportunity for a resolution to this longstanding trade dispute.
Also in 2013, we will be seeking a successful outcome on a countervailing duty case in Peru. This became necessary after a Peruvian commission launched an investigation into claims that U.S. subsidies have caused injury to Peruvian cotton producers. The NCC hired a leading law firm in Lima to represent U.S. cotton's interests in the proceedings, and we are closely involved in every aspect of the case.
Are there other pressing issues?
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved funding for the cotton pests account which provides cost-share for boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs at $15.97 million as requested by the NCC. The legislation also authorized USDA's Farm Service Agency to continue to make up to $100 million in loans available to the eradication programs. In the House, which has not yet passed agricultural appropriations, we are pushing for the same funding priorities and working against any amendments that would adversely impact commodity, conservation and crop insurance programs.
The NCC will be engaged in numerous legislative, regulatory and environmental issues. Among those are conveying 2013 crop insurance rate information to members and keeping them apprised of developments on clean water act permits, pollinator protection, farm dust regulation and the endangered species act mega-suit.
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.