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A Seat At The Table

carroll smith

Carroll Smith

Although you may not embrace her politics, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) penned an interesting quote when she said, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

Many people in the cotton industry may have felt they were being gobbled up like the main course after being cut out as a covered commodity in Title 1 of the Farm Bill. To add insult to injury, farmers were unable to offset their cotton ginning costs, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Farm Service Agency says, “is a prerequisite for marketing cotton lint and seed.”

But then, a couple of good things happened. On Feb. 9, the National Cotton Council applauded Congress’ passage of a supplemental disaster bill that includes critically needed policy that restores eligibility for cotton in the Title I ARC/PLC programs of the Farm Bill.

“This measure will provide cotton producers and lenders some certainty as they prepare for the 2018 growing season,” former NCC Chairman Ronnie Lee says. “The new policy will help ease the financial burden as producers struggle to cover total costs.”

And then in early March, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stepped up to provide a Cotton Ginning Cost Share program.

The NCC quickly shared this good news as well.

Current NCC Chairman Ron Craft says, “The U.S. cotton industry strongly commends Secretary Perdue for his efforts to deliver much-needed marketing assistance for our nation’s cotton producers.”

Although “having a seat at the table” typically is a figurative expression, it took on a more literal sense to me when I saw a tweet posted by Perdue on March 21. A photo was attached showing him and several other people seated at a large, formal conference table. The tweet said: “The snow outside may have shut down the federal government, but like farmers, we keep working at @USDA. Meeting w/@NCottonCouncil Emerging Leaders, talking trade, Farm Bill.”

Yes, there was cotton, literally at the table sharing ideas, making decisions and participating in important conversations about American agriculture. It was a nice feeling to see our commodity in this position again rather than as an item on the menu.
I think we have come a long way.