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Advocating Policy Priorities

Over the past several months, the National Cotton Council (NCC) has actively conveyed to Congress the U.S. cotton industry’s priorities regarding the 2018 farm bill.

gary adams, ncc

Gary Adams

How has the NCC been communicating the industry’s priorities?

▪ In mid-August, a letter from the NCC and 66 other cotton and related industry organizations was sent to 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee members as well as leaders of both the Senate and House agriculture committees prior to the convening of the Conference Committee to resolve the differences in the House and Senate versions of the new farm bill.

The letter applauded both bills for continuing the ARC/PLC policy for seed cotton with a reference price of $0.367/lb. — an important safety net for cotton producers that also supports the industry’s downstream segments.

The cotton organizations’ letter, however, also outlined five major concerns they believed needed addressing during the conference negotiations. The letter urged that at a minimum, full baseline funding (no less than $0.03/lb. for the 10-year baseline) be maintained for the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP).

It was emphasized that the economic program supports improved competitiveness and efficiencies in the U.S. textile manufacturing industry including stabilizing or increasing industry employment. The letter also urged no further tightening of “actively engaged” eligibility provisions as contained in the Senate bill and for maintaining the House provision that expands the definition of family member for eligibility purposes.

This would help today’s many multi-generational family farms avoid unrealistic labor contributions to remain eligible for the safety net. The letter cited the need for maintaining the no-cost House provisions that update the upland and extra-long staple cotton loan programs and urged the current adjusted gross income means test not be reduced from $900,000 to $700,000 as included in the Senate bill.

The letter asked for farm bill language that would have USDA make regulatory changes and study the current cotton shipping system and requirements to help enhance cotton’s timely movement through the marketing channels to end users.

One positive result of the letter was that during the Farm Bill Conference Committee’s first public meeting, several members highlighted cotton and related policy concerns and differences between the House and Senate versions. For example, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) emphasized the importance of ensuring that EAAP is fully funded in the final bill.

In addition, Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Reps. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and Rick Allen (R-Ga.) noted the entirely unworkable “actively engaged” provisions in the Senate version that would severely affect family farms across the country and cited the need to support the House approach on this issue.

How is the NCC working with other agricultural groups?

▪ Simultaneously, a letter went to the agriculture committees’ leaders urging completion of the new farm bill ahead of the current farm bill’s Sept. 30 expiration. That letter came from a coalition of more than 150 agriculture, commodity (including the NCC), lending, conservation, nutrition, and rural organizations. Conference Committee negotiations were ongoing at the time this column was submitted in mid-September.

Gary Adams is president/CEO of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming magazine page.