With producers now making critical decisions that impact their farming operations for the next five years, members of the Senate Agriculture Committee are hearing from growers that now is absolutely the wrong time to consider any policy changes or budget reductions related to the Agriculture Act of 2014.
Program election and sign-up deadlines for various program options available through the new farm bill are looming, even as implementation of the new farm law is continuing. In testimony before the Senate Committee, Ronnie Lee – a cotton producer from Bronwood, GA – told Committee members that making changes now would be both disruptive and punitive.
“With cotton’s safety net now comprised solely by the marketing loan program and crop insurance, we are especially concerned by the recent actions and statements focused on eliminating key crop insurance tools,” said Lee, who serves on the National Cotton Council (NCC) board of directors.
“Farm policy generally, and cotton policy specifically, were substantially reformed, funding reduced, and market orientation increased in the 2014 farm bill,” he added. “Now is not the time for further changes that will only undermine the foundation of risk management for production agriculture.”
Lee, who testified on behalf of the NCC and the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, stressed that one of the most challenging implementation issues has been the imposition of the payment limit on the marketing loan. Tracking total benefits that have accrued to the limit has proven to be a complex and challenging task for USDA, and the uncertainty created by the limit works to undermine the effectiveness of the marketing loan.
With respect to USDA’s current rulemaking process on “actively engaged” in farming, Lee urged the Committee to work closely with USDA to make sure that any changes to the provisions do not exceed the scope of the farm bill statute. He also assured the Committee that the U.S. cotton industry will continue to work closely with the House and Senate agriculture committees and with USDA on the farm law’s full implementation and to address any shortcoming or unintended consequences.
The U.S. cotton industry provides employment for some 200,000 Americans and produces direct business revenue of more than $27 billion. Accounting for the ripple effect of cotton through the broader economy, direct and indirect employment surpasses 420,000 workers with economic activity well in excess of $100 billion.
Source – National Cotton Council