Disaster Assistance Update; Senate Action

Friday,January 17, 2003                By Shawn Wade

      This week’s effort toinclude crop loss disaster assistance for U.S. farmers as part of a Senate FY03Omnibus Appropriations Bill should be viewed as good news by producersadversely impacted by drought and other adverse weather conditions.

      Unfortunately, theproposal, initially put forth by Senate Republican leaders, is getting lessthan stellar reviews from Senators on both sides of the aisle. If accepted “asis” the proposal would be added as an amendment to H.J. Resolution 2, the FY03Omnibus Appropriations Resolution.

      On the plus side of theRepublican proposal is the fact that it sets aside $3.1 billion to pay fordisaster assistance. The disaster money would be part of a budget offset thatcreates savings through a 1.6 percent cut in spending levels for FY03discretionary spending programs.

      Primary criticisms,however, center on the fact that the assistance would be issued to allproducers of program crops - regardless of their individual loss.

      The mechanism todeliver the assistance is a supplemental payment based on a percentage of the2002 Direct payment rate for that crop.

      Plains Cotton GrowersBoard members, were briefed on the proposed plan Wednesday, January 15 andreaffirmed their position that an approach based on “traditional” disasterprograms is still the best way to direct crop loss assistance to the growersthat experienced those losses.

      At this time theproposal, originally developed by Senate Ag Committee Chairman Thad Cochran ofMississippi, is in the process of being revised in an effort to make it morepalatable to other regions.

      The Republican proposalis not the only one out there. Democrat leaders are also expected toreintroduce their own disaster assistance plan for consideration.

      The bottom line ondisaster assistance at this time is that there are several ideas being floated,with none being universally popular.

      Considerations such asthe USDA Farm Service Agency’s ability to administer a complicated disasterprogram simultaneous to the signup for the Direct-Countercyclical Program(DCP), how quickly the process can be completed, how the benefits are targeted,and Administration acceptance will significantly impact the entire debate.

      A PCG contingent madeup of PCG President Mark Williams, Vice President Rickey Bearden, Board memberKent Nix and Executive Vice President Steve Verett will be traveling toWashington, DC the week of January 20 to work on the issue and push for thebest possible assistance package.


High Plains Cotton Conference Schedule

         HighPlains cotton producers can update their crop production, marketing, andmanagement skills, and learn more about irrigation, fertility, pest managementand farm legislation at several regional Texas Cooperative Extensionagriculture conferences slated in January and February.

         Producerscan also earn continuing education units (CEUs) for private and commercialapplicator licenses at these regional conferences.

         Thisyear’s conference dates and locations are:

Jan. 20 – The Southern Mesa Ag Conference at the Dawson County AnnexBuilding (609 North 1st), Lamesa,, 8:00 a.m.

Jan. 21 – The Llano Estacado Cotton Conference, Bailey County Coliseum,Muleshoe, 8:30 a.m.

Jan. 22 – The Caprock Cotton Conference, Plains Baptist Assembly southof Floydada, 8:00 a.m

Jan. 22 – The Terry County Ag Conference & Trade Show, Nikki VinsonYouth Center (110 East Hill Street), Brownfield, 8:30 a.m.

Jan. 23 – Hale and Swisher County Cotton Conference, Ollie LinerCenter, Plainview, 8:30 a.m.

Feb. 5 – Sandyland Ag Conference, Gaines County Community Building,Seminole, 8:30 a.m.

Feb. 7 – Southwest Panhandle Cotton Conference, Hereford CommunityCenter, Hereford.