2015: The Year in Washington
From the Cotton Grower 2015 Annual
BY DR. GARY ADAMS
The National Cotton Council’s 2015 agenda focused on achieving effective 2014 farm law implementation and managing numerous trade and regulatory issues.
Regarding the farm law, the NCC was quite active in convincing policy makers of the importance of getting that legislation’s insurance provisions implemented with the 2015 crop, including the availability of the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX).
We coordinated with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to get additional STAX provisions for the 2016 crop year, including making STAX available for all cotton acres and providing greater flexibility for making independent purchase decisions for STAX between irrigated and non-irrigated practices.
The NCC also conveyed industry concerns to RMA in response to proposals on both prevented planting payment rates and skip row factors.
NCC staff and industry officials met with USDA’s Farm Service Agency to ensure the marketing loan program would allow cotton to continue to be redeemed from the loan at the adjusted world price to minimize disruption of cotton flow and forfeitures.
Equally important was the NCC’s formation in 2014 of a Payment Limit Working Group to develop recommendations and to work with USDA on implementing a reporting and tracking system so producers and cooperatives can know their status relative to the unified payment limit.
That effort was reinforced with NCC Director Ronnie Lee’s testimony at a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee hearing, where he noted that the uncertainty created by the limit works to undermine the marketing loan’s effectiveness.
Lee also urged any “actively engaged” provision changes not exceed the scope of the statute in the 2014 farm law as applicable to farm program eligibility for the 2016 crop (or 2017 crop if the final rule is delayed).
After USDA issued its proposed rule – which has the potential to significantly affect program eligibility criteria for family members and others involved in farm management – the NCC worked with farm program attorneys and agricultural groups to develop comments.
The need for greater certainty for tax planning was at the forefront in 2015.
The NCC continues to push for Congressional approval of tax extenders legislation that will restore the $500,000 Section 179 expensing and 50% bonus depreciation provisions and urge their enactment on a permanent or long-term basis, instead of the recent norm of late-year retroactive extensions.
The NCC’s involvement in the federal appropriations process also was vital in order to oppose any amendments that would reduce funding for agricultural programs or adversely affect farm policy and crop insurance, and secure funding for the cotton industry’s priority programs.
We were hopeful as this article went to press, because the House agriculture appropriations process had provided a legislative vehicle for including a key provision that would direct USDA to allow the use of commodity marketing certificates for purposes of redeeming commodities from the marketing loan program, thereby helping address the unworkable combined payment limit that applies to both the marketing loan program and the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs.
On the trade front, the NCC worked closely with the National Council of Textile Organizations to defeat amendments of concern to the cotton and textile industries during Congressional consideration of Trade Promotion Authority.
As negotiations concluded on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the NCC supported the textile industry’s efforts by urging the U.S. Trade Representative to insist that a yarn forward rule of origin be required for products granted preferential access to the U.S. market.
The NCC continued to be heavily involved in the Turkish anti-dumping investigation, including the rebuttal of Turkish government claims and conducting numerous meetings with the Administration and Congressional members to raise awareness of this issue and this market’s critical importance to U.S. cotton.
There was heightened focus on U.S. cotton and cotton policy in advance of the World Trade Organization December ministerial meeting in Kenya. The NCC continued communications with the Administration and Congressional leadership to ensure that U.S. trade negotiators defend U.S. cotton and not agree to any further concessions.
That communication included my testimony before the House Agriculture Committee, where I reiterated that U.S. programs are not having a detrimental impact on world markets or producers in other countries.
The NCC has been active on numerous regulatory issues. Among those was the NCC’s submission of extensive comments to the EPA/Corps of Engineers proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule; support of legislation that would prohibit these agencies from moving forward with that rule; and testimony before the House Agriculture Committee Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, emphasizing that the proposed rule would require costly federal permits for many essential farming practices.
The NCC also remained active in support for the registration of new herbicide-tolerant traits to help in the management of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and in several coalitions involved with pollinator health issues and the impact on pesticide use.
Adams is President/CEO of the National Cotton Council of America