The National Cotton Council recently conveyed its fiscal year 2016 federal appropriations priorities for helping the U.S. cotton industry remain competitive in the world marketplace.
Where is the budget appropriations process?
The House and Senate agricultural appropriations subcommittees conducted hearings with USDA agency officials to review their budget requests and priorities before beginning the development of their respective funding bills. The final Congressional budget resolution being negotiated between the House and Senate will set the overall level of funding available for fiscal year 2016.
What are U.S. cotton’s funding priorities?
Essential is maintaining resources for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to complete boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication. These programs continue to produce documented economic and environmental benefits.
Adequate funding also was requested for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which conducts important agronomic, post-harvest, fiber quality and textile research. The NCC asked that USDA be instructed not to close any ARS facilities or discontinue any projects without first consulting with cotton industry stakeholders. That applies to the three ginning laboratories. These important facilities help our industry develop the most energy efficient cotton handling and ginning systems and conduct research that assists our industry in increasing fiber quality. We noted, for example, that the laboratories recently completed an ambitious program to accurately measure the particulate matter emissions from gins – which will help the U.S. cotton industry address current and future air quality issues. In addition, we asked that funding be maintained for the research units managing cotton programs conducted at the Southern Regional Research Center and the various cotton breeding programs – including support for the Cotton Germplasm Collection managed by the Southern Plains Crop Germplasm Unit housed at the Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center.
The NCC also conveyed strong support for full funding of USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) programs. MAP and FMD provide critical funding for Cotton Council International (CCI) to conduct overseas market development and promotion activities on behalf of U.S. cotton and cotton products. Independent studies, in fact, reveal that for every dollar spent by USDA cooperators, including CCI, U.S. exports increase $35. For the U.S. cotton industry, this represents more than $1 billion in export value or an additional 7,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.
What about USDA agency funding?
The NCC is urging sufficient funding for USDA agencies to administer programs important to the cotton industry, including the Risk Management Agency, Farm Service Agency, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). It’s important, for example, that U.S. agriculture continues to have an agency like FAS with close links to domestic USDA programs to promote U.S. exports, collect market data, assist exporters, remedy trade disputes and assist in the development of trade policy. More details on federal budget priorities are in a letter on the NCC’s website at www.cotton. org/issues/2015/appropslet.cfm.
Gary Adams is president/chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming magazine page.