The National Cotton Council recently conveyed to a key Senate panel its FY24 funding requests for several USDA programs important to the U.S. cotton industry.
What are the major recommendations?
In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, the NCC listed recommendations and suggested funding levels for selected USDA programs under that panel’s jurisdiction.
Sufficient funding was requested for the Foreign Agricultural Service so it can continue carrying out vital market development and trade enhancing functions at home and abroad, among them informing trade partners of trade barriers and reasons for them to be removed. We also seek a $200 million funding level for the Market Access Program and $34.5 million for the Foreign Market Development program as authorized in the 2018 farm law. These undergird the activities of Cotton Council International which has a significant mission of maintaining and expanding U.S. raw cotton and cotton product exports in Asia, Europe, Africa and Central/South America. The NCC also asked for $4 million in funding to help the Agricultural Marketing Service upgrade its 10 cotton classing offices — laboratories essential to maintaining U.S. cotton’s fiber quality/reliability reputation.
The NCC also seeks 1) $15.73 million for the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service’s Cotton Pests Account so active boll weevil eradication activities in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley can continue and 2) sufficient funding for the Farm Service Agency to make up to $30 million in loans to eligible producer-controlled organizations carrying out eradication program activities. Regarding other pest-related funding requests, the NCC seeks 1) level funding for Cotton Blue Disease research and 2) $2 million (a $1 million increase) for research aimed at controlling the Cotton Seed Bug. The NCC has conservatively estimated annual seed bug damages of $47.8 million in California, $28.5 million for Arizona and $8 million for New Mexico.
Any other research support being sought?
The NCC’s letter noted that the U.S. cotton industry continues to be concerned with the financial support of the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) cotton research programs. These programs and facilities conduct vital research in fiber quality, production agronomic systems/pest management, sustainability, germplasm/genetic studies, and textiles.
Specifically, the NCC asks that priority be given to maintaining the National Cotton Germplasm Collection and requests increases of $1.4 million to ensure its preservation/use and $2.3 million for critical renovation to its facility, including the storage vault. The NCC also requests a $1.5 million increase to ARS for three programs aimed at helping ensure plant breeders/geneticists can efficiently share information related to varieties in the Germplasm Collection. This funding will greatly advance multiple research activities and will provide access to genetic information that more efficiently identifies genetic stock containing desired traits, thus allowing rapid response to critical needs such as introduction of new diseases and/or drought tolerance. The NCC is seeking an additional $2 million for FY24 above the FY23 funding level for the three ARS cotton ginning research units. This funding can enhance research on quality improvements/ginning efficiencies, energy consumption reduction, and gin by-product use to enhance carbon capture and improve cotton’s overall sustainability.