Suffering under combined pressures of natural disasters and predatory foreign competition by China, India, and others, financially struggling American cotton farmers received strong backing from Capitol Hill on December 15, as 100 Members of the House of Representatives urged U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to use legal authority provided under the 2014 Farm Bill to provide crucial help.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford (R-AR), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN) led a rare coalition of rural and urban Democrats and Republicans from across the country – from both inside and outside of the Cotton Belt – in requesting that the Secretary use his authority under the Farm Bill to designate cottonseed an oilseed, allowing farmers who produce cottonseed to access the same risk management tools available under the Farm Bill to other oilseed farmers.
“America’s farmers are currently experiencing a 55 percent free fall in net farm income, with huge losses due in part to the culprits of natural disasters and the unfair trade practices of foreign countries that use high and rising subsidies, tariffs, and non-tariff trade barriers to elbow U.S. farmers out of world markets,” said Conaway. “Cotton farmers are getting hit the hardest right now, and they are doing all they can just to hold on without access to key risk management tools under the Farm Bill.”
The General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee held a hearing in early December on the crisis unfolding in cotton country. Farmers from across the country urged lawmakers to join farmers in requesting the Secretary use his authority to provide relief.
“We are deeply concerned that unless the Secretary takes action, there will be significant economic consequences. We cannot allow the predatory trading practices of a few huge players in the world cotton market to destroy cotton production in this country, but that is exactly what will happen without action,” Conaway concluded.
The letter to Vilsack and the full list of signatories can be found here.
The National Cotton Council expressed thanks to Conaway and Peterson for their leadership in pursuing the cottonseed designation.
“We are extremely grateful to Representatives Conaway and Peterson for leading the charge on this effort,” said NCC Chairman Sledge Taylor, a Mississippi cotton producer and ginner. “This designation is much needed, as our industry is facing very difficult economic conditions to say the least. We want to thank all those Members that signed the letter for standing up for U.S. cotton producers who continue to be unfairly disadvantaged by foreign governments highly subsidizing their industries.”
Taylor said the designation for cottonseed to be covered either under the Farm Bill’s Price Loss Coverage or Agriculture Risk Coverage programs for the purpose of farm safety net participation would provide much-needed stability in the U.S. cotton industry.
State, regional and national letters from agricultural lenders were also sent to Secretary Vilsack, including more than 375 signatures of individual banks, the Farm Credit Council, the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers Association. Each message noted that “it is imperative that actions be taken that can have a stabilizing effect on the U.S. cotton industry.”
Sources – U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, National Cotton Council