Mixed Messages On Disaster Aid This Week

Friday,February 7, 2003                     By Shawn Wade

      From cautious optimismto genuine concern is a good description of the swing in attitudes regardingdisaster assistance gaining final approval as part of the FY03 OmnibusAppropriations bill currently under consideration.

      Whether or not such anextreme change in attitude is warranted is still unclear. What is becomingclear, however, is that the perception of backpedaling and political posturingby the Bush Administration is gaining many new believers in farm country.

      Fueling the change inattitudes was the release of the Statement of Administration Policy (SAP)earlier this week. The SAP outlines the Bush AdministrationŐs stance on issuesincluded in the FY03 Omnibus spending measure.

      Of primary concern wasthe apparent reversal in the Bush AdministrationŐs willingness to accept anacross the board cut in discretionary spending levels to pay for the additionof drought assistance, and several other items, in the Senate package.

      The SAP indicates thatthe Administration will only support drought assistance if it is offset withinexisting agriculture funding. This new stance is clearly different from thestatements issued by the Administration on the Senate drought packageimmediately after they helped push the spending measure through that body.

      Secretary Ann Venemansaid shortly after the Senate vote that the drought assistance included in thebill appeared to meet the AdministrationŐs criteria for spending offsets.

      Prior to this latestcurveball, the drought assistance package was already gaining additionalscrutiny from members of the House of Representatives who felt that the Senateapproach didnŐt go far enough in targeting assistance to individuals that had losses.

What Does It all Mean?

      The progress of thespending bill over the weekend will probably set the stage for whether or notdrought assistance remains part of the Omnibus legislation. The unwelcomealternative would be that it is stripped from the final bill and gets moved toanother legislative vehicle, possibly delaying action for months.

      Still. many observersfeel that this is a remote possibility and that drought assistance will be partof the final FY03 Omnibus spending bill.

      Of primary concern nowis shoring up support for drought assistance as part of the Omnibus bill andencouraging individual members of the Conference Committee and Congress toresist a Ňrobbing Peter to pay PaulÓ strategy.

      Key to making thatargument is explaining the differences between the price support mechanismsincluded in the Farm Bill (and the cost estimates associated with them) and thephysical losses being addressed by the drought assistance package.

      Of the many possiblealternatives to the Senate payment proposal are payments that are based on apercentage of paid 2001 or 2002 crop insurance indemnities for producers thatexperienced losses. Using the crop insurance-based payment method could helptarget payments and still maintain a relatively quick delivery of payments.

      So far no alternativepackage has emerged as a clear challenger to the Senate version, but talks arecontinuing.

      Efforts from PCG andothers are centered on continuing to push for the maximum amount of assistanceand continuing the ongoing effort to educate and shore up support for apackage.

 

NCC Releases 2003 Plantings Survey

      TheNational Cotton Council's estimate of Cotton Planting Intentions for 2003 pegsUpland Cotton at 13,860,000 acres and Pima Cotton at 190,000 for a total of14,050,000 acres.

      The NCCestimate was released at the organizationŐs Annual Meeting February 7, 2003.

 

Prospective 2003 U.S. Cotton Plantings

 

2002 Actual (Thou.) 1/

2003 Intended (Thou.) 2/

 

Percent

Change

SOUTHEAST

3,490

3,317

-5.0%

Alabama

590

652

10.5%

Florida

120

112

-6.5%

Georgia

1,450

1,352

-6.7%

North Carolina

940

877

-6.7%

South Carolina

290

234

-19.4%

Virginia

100

89

-10.6%

MID-SOUTH

3,600

3,719

3.3%

Arkansas

960

919

-4.3%

Louisiana

520

504

-3.2%

Mississippi

1,170

1,198

2.4%

Missouri

380

367

-3.3%

Tennessee

570

731

28.2%

SOUTHWEST

5,880

6,071

3.2%

Kansas

80

98

23.0%

Oklahoma

200

250

24.9%

Texas

5,600

5,723

2.2%

WEST

749

757

1.1%

Arizona

215

201

-6.4%

California

480

474

-1.2%

New Mexico

54

81

50.9%

TOTAL UPLAND

13,719

13,864

1.1%

TOTAL ELS

244

184

-24.7%

Arizona

8

4

-55.1%

California

210

159

-24.3%

New Mexico

7

5

-22.8%

Texas

19

15

-16.6%

ALL COTTON

13,963

14,048

0.6%

1/ USDA-NASS.

 

 

 

2/ National Cotton Council.