Restoring economic stability for the U.S. cotton industry, which includes remaining active in the trade and regulatory arenas, continues to dominate the National Cotton Council’s agenda.
What about recent policy changes?
• We were very pleased with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s recent announcement that USDA will provide a Cotton Ginning Cost Share (CGCS) program that offsets a portion of a producer’s 2016 crop season ginning costs — like the previous CGCS program. Payments, which are capped at $40,000 per individual or entity and do not count against the 2014 farm law payment limitations, will be calculated based on a producer’s 2016 cotton acres reported to the Farm Service Agency.
To be eligible, a producer must meet conservation compliance provisions, be actively engaged in farming and have adjusted gross incomes not exceeding $900,000. The program sign-up period ends on May 11, 2018. Regional per-acre payment rates and other information can be obtained by contacting the local FSA office or at www.fsa.usda.gov/cgcs.
The CGCS relief will help fill cotton producers’ safety net void until the new seed cotton PLC/ARC program (which I wrote about in my March column) is implemented beginning with the 2018 crop year. Monitoring this program’s implementation and advancing it are key NCC priorities. Other NCC recommendations for the 2018 farm bill include: maintaining the seed cotton program, improvements in operation of the marketing loan, cotton flow enhancements, more resources for the economic adjustment assistance for U.S. textile mills, and improvements for the “actively engaged” definition for program eligibility.
What are other NCC priorities?
• The NCC continues to secure funding for the industry’s needs in the annual appropriations process. We continue to address unfair trade practices, ranging from the NAFTA re-negotiation to access to international markets and cotton discussions within the World Trade Organization.
We remain very involved on numerous regulatory issues, including pollinator protection activities, the registration and re-registration of critically important crop protection products, and development of a new Waters of the U.S. rule.
We are working closely with the National Cotton Ginners Association as well as state and regional gin associations to address the Food & Drug Administration’s animal feed rule that could affect certain gins and require costly assessments and controls to be put in place with respect to cottonseed.
Through our Quality Task Force, the NCC is: 1) closely monitoring lint contamination incidences being reported by our textile customers, 2) developing contamination prevention educational programs and 3) identifying and providing support for research projects to detect/remove contamination at the gin.
Another priority is advancing our Sustainability Task Force’s goals for measurable and continual improvements in environmental stewardship, farm productivity and resource efficiency. At the direction of the NCC Board, we are continuing to evaluate ways to strengthen our sustainability message, including opportunities for increasing our producers’ involvement with farm-level assessment tools. This new effort should help expand major textile brands and retailers’ acceptance that U.S. cotton not only is responsibly produced but that our producers continue to work to shrink their environmental footprint.
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.