Throughout the year, the National Cotton Council communicated with lawmakers to provide adequate funding for a new farm bill that contains a strong producer safety net and other provisions important to U.S. cotton’s health.
How were sufficient farm bill resources sought?
Early in 2023, the NCC and many national/regional cotton organizations joined 400 other agriculture groups on a letter to the House/Senate budget committees’ leadership requesting sufficient budgetary resources for a new farm bill. Along with more than 50 other agricultural associations, the NCC also sent a letter to Administration leaders and to House/Senate budget and appropriations panels’ leaders specifically urging crop insurance programs be protected from any cuts in the appropriations process. An action aimed at reducing pressure on farm bill resources — and one the NCC supported — came when Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to use Commodity Credit Corporation authorities to open access to markets and promote American-grown products abroad which could “strengthen trade opportunities, increase revenue streams and help producers thrive in a global economy.”
How were other farm bill provision priorities conveyed?
As I noted in an earlier column, the NCC participated in Congressional farm bill hearings to convey industry priorities. In separate hearings, NCC Chairman Shawn Holladay and NCC Director Patrick Johnson offered recommendations that could help address new operating challenges such as changing markets, extreme weather events and increased production costs. Both testified that a new farm bill needs to include: 1) increases to the seed cotton reference price and the marketing loan rate; 2) restoring the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills payment rate to the original value; 3) modernizing various marketing loan program repayment provisions; 4) continued support for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD); and 5) adding marketing loan provisions to the Pima loan program.
Since then, Holladay and other NCC leaders went to Washington, DC, where they met with more than 20 Senators and Representatives, including the House and Senate agriculture committees’ leaders. The NCC delegation reiterated these priorities and requested elimination of the current prohibition on joint PLC/STAX enrollment. Also, the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports, chaired by Robbie Minnich, vice president of NCC’s Washington Operations, told Congressional Members that programs like MAP and FMD work and investments in them need to increase significantly in the new farm bill to keep up with competitors.
Any other farm policy activity?
The NCC commented on the Risk Management Agency’s request for feedback on implementation of provisions related to prevented planting. We continued to oppose legislation such as the Farm Program Integrity Act that proposed to lower payment limits and marketing loan gain/loan deficiency payment caps, change current definitions of active engagement in farming, and remove payment limit exemptions from farming partnerships.
The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, of which the NCC is a member, urged Congress to pass a farm bill that advances voluntary bipartisan climate solutions. The NCC also was among 20 groups that launched the “Farm Bill for America’s Families: Sustaining Our Future” campaign to urge passage of the 2023 farm bill this calendar year. We continue to push for passage of a farm bill before year’s end or some extension of current law. Unfortunately, it may be well into 2024 before Congress’ farm bill provisions are adequately developed.