FY2004 Agriculture Appropriations Approved By Senate, 93-1

LUBBOCK, November 7, 2003             ByShawn Wade

      Senate approvalof the FY2004 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2673) November 6 means thenext step towards final passage of the agriculture spending measure iscompletion of a House-Senate conference. The Senate passed the Bill by a voteof 93-1.

      The Senate alsonamed the following Senators to serve on the Conference Committee: Robert Bennett (R-UT); Thad Cochran (R-MS);Arlen Specter (R-PA); Christopher Bond (R-MO); Mitch McConnell (R-KY); ConradBurns (R-MT); Larry Craig (R-ID); Sam Brownback (R-KS); Ted Stevens (R-AK);Herb Kohl (D-WI); Tom Harkin (D-IA); Byron Dorgan (D-ND); Diane Feinstein(D-CA); Richard Durbin (D-IL); Tim Johnson (D-SD); Mary Landrieu (D-LA); RobertByrd (D-WV).

      The effort tofinish the USDA spending bill fortunately avoided getting bogged down by issueslike Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and also avoided having any detrimentalamendments added on that would have made changes to the current Farm program,specifically in the area of payment limits.

      One of thecontributing factors that encouraged quick completion of the Ag Bill was itallowed the Senate to move on to consideration of a new Continuing Resolution(CR) to keep the government operating.

      The current CR,under which the government is operating, expires November 7. Failure to passthe Ag Bill November 6 because of a drawn out debate could have caused theSenate to lay aside the measure in order to pass the next CR before theVeterans Day recess.

      One of theinteresting amendments offered during Senate consideration November 5 was putforth by Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN).

      The Daytonamendment would have included language to extend emergency disaster assistanceto agricultural producers. While the amendment was eventually ruled out oforder and not included, it does point out an understanding by legislators thatmany areas of the country, including West Texas, have suffered crop losses in2003.

      For High Plainsproducers the fact that 2003 disaster assistance is being talked about at allshould be considered positive. The Dayton amendmentŐs failure to be includedalso illustrates a situation that PCG has encountered time and time again whenputting forth the idea of a 2003 disaster program.

      PCG hasrepeatedly heard that the Congress understands that significant crop losseshave occurred in 2003. One of the key arguments against doing anything now,however, is that the full scope of the losses across the country is stillessentially unknown.

      A secondstumbling block to getting a 2003 disaster assistance package lies in the factthat the tight budget landscape will likely require spending offsets to pay forany package, much like what occurred to secure passage of the 2001-2002 CropDisaster Program.

      Producers andproducer groups will eventually be asked to make some hard choices in terms ofprogram funding and in which areas they will accept spending cuts to offset theadded cost of any 2003 disaster assistance program.

      In the end,passage of the FY2004 Agriculture Appropriations Bill closes another doorthrough which the 2002 Farm Bill can be attacked. It also secures funding forkey programs for the coming year and allows important programs to move forwardin 2004.

      With Senateaction complete the Bill will go to a conference committee to reconcile it withthe House of RepresentativeŐs already approved FY2004 AgricultureAppropriations spending Bill.


Colder Weather Necessary To Curb Southern Weevil Movement

LUBBOCK, November 7, 2003       By Roger Haldenby

      The Panhandle andNorthern half of PCGŐs 25-county area have experienced some chilly temperaturesthis week, but in the Permian Basin it's not been chilly enough to call a muchneeded halt to boll weevil spray operations.

      Weevils from theSt. Lawrence area, and other parts of Glasscock county not involved in activeeradication, have moved into the edges of the Permian Basin Boll WeevilEradication Zone, as well as the Rolling Plains Central Zone and SouthernRolling Plains Zone.

      The cost togrowers in the three eradication zones being effected by migrating boll weevilsis amounting to millions of dollars. The latest report from Texas Boll WeevilEradication Foundation shows 309,562 acres were treated in these three zones inthe week ending November 2. The same report shows that 1,951,667 cumulativeacres have been treated in the Permian Basin alone this season.

      At an estimatedaverage treatment cost per acre between $3.25 and $3.50 it can be easilysurmised that the three zones have spent over a million dollars in just oneweek combating an expensive insurgence of weevils from St. Lawrence.

      The SouthernRolling Plains Zone was declared functionally eradicated of boll weevil inSeptember 2000. No weevils were caught in 2001 but apparently a few snuck infrom St. Lawrence, which is West of the zone, during 2002. SRP Zone recentlycelebrated becoming debt-free but now faces mounting costs to maintain theireradicated status.