Friday, October 7, 2005 By Shawn Wade
Taking full advantage oftheir only opportunity to weigh in directly with Agriculture Secretary MikeJohanns, a strong contingent of PCG members and supporters expressed the region'ssatisfaction with the current farm bill during the one and only USDA Farm BillForum that will be held in Texas.
Approximately 500 farmers,ranchers, industry representatives and USDA employees attended the forumconducted on the campus of Texas Tech University.
PCG representativespresenting oral comments before time ran out on the event were: PCG ExecutiveCommittee members Wesley Butchee, Johnie Reed, Craig Heinrich, Shawn Holladay,Al Spinks and Mark Williams; and PCG Board members Brad Heffington, WeldonMelton, and Don Marble.
A number of allied industryrepresentatives also presented comments including City Bank-Texas ExecutiveVice President Mike Wright, Joe Hurst, Hurst Farm Supply, and Chris Snodgrass,South Plains Implement.
Several other PCG ExecutiveCommittee and Board members were unable to present oral testimony, but plan tosubmit their comments electronically. Producers are also encouraged to emailtheir comments through the USDA's Farm Bill Forum website: http://www.usda.gov/farmbill
The overwhelming majority ofthe comments presented by forum participants contained the same basic message –the 2002 Farm Bill is working and needs to be kept intact.
A few commenters encouragedthe Administration to actively support an extension of the current farm programthrough at least 2010.
Among the key points raisedby growers about the 2002 farm bill was the importance of a stable andconsistent farm program to provide an essential foundation upon which growerscan make the long-term investments required in today's agriculture. It was alsonoted that the current program provides planting flexibility to growers, aneffective safety net in times of low prices and has minimal impact on plantedacres and prices.
Numerous commenters alsostressed the importance of keeping the current structure of the program,including payment limit rules, intact. They noted that the support provided bythe farm bill, as it exists today, is critical to all producers regardless ofage or experience.
In regard to paymentlimitations it was noted that any move to impose more restrictive paymentlimits would decrease our ability to be competitive internationally byrestricting farm size to a level that is, in many cases, less than economicallyefficient.
Another point expressed tothe Secretary in testimony was that the combination of marketing loans anddirect and counter-cyclical payments forms an effective and necessary safetynet for producers, especially as they attempt to cope with rapidly escalatingenergy and associated production costs.
South Plains, Texas cottonproducer Don Marble summed up the majority view saying, "The 2002 farm bill hasproven to be one of the most effective and fiscally responsible pieces of farmlegislation that I have ever seen and now is not the time to be making anychanges to the current farm program."
Friday, September 30, 2005 By Shawn Wade
According to the NationalAgricultural Statistics Service one of the most useful sources of informationon what is going on in production agriculture is the Agricultural ResourceManagement Survey (ARMS).
Used by a wide array ofCongressional, agriculture industry, public and private institutions, ARMSprovides a snapshot of the overall trends that are driving efficiency andproductivity and the adoption of new technology and management practices onAmerica's farms and ranches.
To answer important questionsabout U.S. agriculture, the USDA's NASS, Texas Office will conduct theAgricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). During the fall of 2005 thissurvey will gather information on production practices, chemical applications,and pest management practices. In addition, some of the costs to produce thecrops will be recorded.
Texas producers selected toparticipate in the ARMS will be making an important contribution to the overallwelfare of the U.S. agricultural community. This survey gives participants anopportunity to set the record straight about issues that affect them, such asthe use of fertilizers and pesticides.
"The ARMS survey is anexcellent opportunity for a farmer to insure that people outside mainstreamagriculture have accurate views about what, and how we do things on thefarm," says Executive Vice President of Plains Cotton Growers Inc., SteveVerett. "This information will eventually be used to analyze a variety oflegislative and regulatory issues and could ultimately influence thedevelopment of laws and regulations that impact so much of what we do everyday."
Texas farm operators selectedto participate in this year's survey are being notified by letter, andinterviewers will visit them to collect their reports at their convenience. USDA will use the results to publish information on agricultural chemical usageand analyze commodity production costs and returns in a series of reports in2006.
"We safeguard theconfidentiality of all survey responses," Robin Roark, Texas State DirectorUSDA/NASS, said. "Data about individual operations are combined with otherresponses to produce summary data which are published at the national, regionaland state level."
All agricultural statisticspublished by NASS are available at www.usda.gov/nass/
Continued on Page 2
Reprinted with permission.
LUBBOCK AVALANCHE JOURNAL EDITORIAL
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
Don't Mess With Texas, Farm Bill
U.S. SECRETARY OF Agriculture Mike Johanns is in Lubbocktoday conducting the Texas portion of a nationwide whistle stop tour of"listening sessions" on the 2007 Farm Bill.
Unquestionably, agriculture is a key foundation to thisGiant Side of Texas. Similarly, the Farm Bill is a key foundation to agriculturein this region on which the rest of our economy and stability so greatlydepend.
Within a 100-mile radius of Lubbock, approximately 4 millionacres of cotton fields that have been green and growing all season soon will beturning white as harvest time approaches.
Elevators will be filled with grain. Peanuts will be dug.Grapes will be picked. Pastures and feed lots will grow more beef for ourdinner tables.
As proceeds from marketing all these crops flow through ourregion's banks and businesses, we'll see another positive boost to the Lubbockarea economy.
This boost comes, in large part, from the sheer volume ofthe 2005 crops but, on the darker side, increased income to area businesses isa reflection of the soaring cost of production for our farmers and ranchers.
Any agricultural producer can tell you there is a lot thatcan change from planting a seed to harvesting a crop, from birth of a calf todelivery at a packing plant.
The weather changes. World markets change. The costs of seedand feed, fuel and fertilizer, along with other inputs, all change.
And 2005 has been a season of unprecedented change. Forexample, a subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee just last week heardthat farm income projections are on a steep decline.
Higher costs for energy, fertilizer, manufactured inputs,crop and livestock losses, and interest rates all contribute to the decline,which is made more severe as a result of recent natural disasters.
Now the safety net of the 2002 Farm Bill that provides alevel of cushion and protection against changes such as these is beingchallenged.
The 2002 Farm Bill was crafted in truly bi-partisanconditions. Former House Ag Committee Chairman Larry Combest and former rankingmember Charlie Stenholm reached across - and beyond - political andphilosophical differences to deliver "a Farm Bill that works" for ourarea farmers and ranchers. U.S. Reps. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock, Mike Conawayof Midland and Mac Thornberry of Amarillo continue to defend it.
The resounding echo from farm groups around the Texas Plainshas been - and is - to leave the Farm Bill alone. Leave it as-is.
The next Farm Bill will come into effect with the 2008 crop.That will be the last crop for this administration, but we trust our farmersand ranchers will be here long after that.
The best legacy Secretary Johanns and this administrationcan leave American Agriculture - and this Giant Side of Texas - could beachieved by recalling a couple of our Lone Star State sayings: "If itain't broke, don't fix it" and "Don't mess with Texas." Don'tmess with the Farm Bill.
Editorials represent the opinion of The Avalanche-Journal
Editorial Board, which consists of Publisher Stephen A.
Beasley, Editor Randy Sanders, Editorial Page Editor Joe
Hughes, editorial writer Joe Gulick, and communitymembers
Isaac Garcia, Clark Self and Carmen Vige.
Dr. Randy Boman, ExtensionCotton Agronomist with the Texas A&M University Research and ExtensionCenter at Lubbock, has released the 2005 Harvest Aid Guide to help producersmake harvest aid decisions going into the 2005 harvest season. A downloadableversion of the 2005 Guide is available on the Lubbock Center's website (http://lubbock.tamu.edu