Friday, January 3, 2003 By Shawn Wade
Withthe 108th Congress set to convene January 7, 2003 the top item onthe cotton industry’s “To-Do” list is disaster assistance.
TheNational Cotton Council, with the cooperation of Plains Cotton Growers andother regional cotton producer groups, has renewed the effort to secure croploss disaster assistance for producers impacted by adverse growing conditionsduring the 2001 and 2002 production seasons.
Thefirst round of face-to-face visits with Congressional leaders will beginWednesday, January 8, one day after the 108th Congress is sworn inand begins work.
PCGVice President Rickey Bearden, of Plains, has been asked to participate in theNCC contingent that will visit renew the process of educating Congressionalleaders, new and old, about the need for disaster assistance.
TheNCC contingent will include John Maguire, NCC Vice President-WashingtonOperations, Bearden and Ronnie Fleming, a cotton producer from North Carolina.
TheNCC group will join producers and industry representatives from several othercommodity groups in a coordinated follow-up to a letter sent prior to Christmasoutlining the needs for disaster assistance and signed by 32 producer commodityorganizations.
With the Bush Administration still voicing support for disaster assistanceprovided that it be paid for with adequate budget offsets.
TheNCC message will focus first on the need to provide disaster assistance, andsecond that any disaster assistance be provided in addition
Thecotton industry has staunchly defended the ideal that disaster assistance isneeded but must not come at the expense of the Farm Bill and the future supportit provides.
Oneof the challenges to date has been in differentiating problems the new FarmBill addresses in a forward-looking manner from the significant physical lossesincurred prior to its passage that have seriously hurt many producers.
PlainsCotton Growers, Inc. officials will travel to Washington, DC the week ofJanuary 20 to further encourage the development of crop loss disasterassistance for the 2001 and 2002 growing seasons.
PCGPresident Mark Williams will lead the group that will include fellow PCGofficers Rickey Bearden, Vice President; Mike Hughes, Secretary-Treasurer;Ronnie Hopper, PCG Chairman; and PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett.
ThePCG trip will be a close follow-up to PCG Vice President Rickey Bearden’sJanuary 8 trip to Washington on PCG’s behalf representing cotton inmulti-commodity disaster assistance follow-up.
Alsobeing worked into the PCG trip will be meetings with key USDA personnel todiscuss issues related to crop insurance, conservation programs, farm billimplementation and trade.