Budget Reconciliation Passes House;
GOP Elects Boehner New Majority Leader

Friday,February 3, 2006                           By Shawn Wade

      Afterhearing the President's State of the Union Address February 1, the House ofRepresentatives immediately got back to business this week voting on BudgetReconciliation and, for Republican's, the election of a new Majority Leader toreplace Rep. Tom Delay.

      Firstup for the House was a final vote on the Budget Reconciliation package whichwas sent to President Bush's desk on a close 216-214 vote. Once signed by thePresident the legislation will cut federal spending by approximately $40billion over the next five years.

      Some$2.7 billion of the cuts are coming from agricultural programs and includes theelimination of the Upland Cotton Step 2 program. As reported previously, thebill makes NO reduction in the amount of Direct and Counter-Cyclical programpayments producers will receive under the 2002 Farm Bill.

      Theonly change that most producers will encounter involves the Direct Paymentprogram's advance payment option. The bill reduces advance Direct payments to40 percent for the 2006 crop (unless a producer has already requested andreceived a 2006 advance payment at the 50 percent level) and reduces theadvance payment to 22 percent for the 2007 program year.

      TheStep 2 program was placed on the chopping block to comply with a WTO ruling ina case brought by Brazil against the U.S. cotton program.

      Indiscussing the decision to eliminate the Step 2 program, House AgricultureCommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte was quoted as saying the decision was unfairto cotton farmers even though eliminating the program was necessary followingthe WTO's ruling that Step 2 was a trade distorting subsidy.

      Duringthe interview Goodlatte described the WTO's Step 2 ruling as catching the U.S.in a "bait and switch" situation. He said the U.S. believed the Step 2 program,which predates the current WTO agriculture agreement, fit WTO rules.Unfortunately, the WTO dispute panel deciding the case ultimately dismissedU.S. arguments and ruled that the program was trade distorting.

      Underthe terms of the Budget Reconciliation bill the Step 2 program will end on July31, 2006 at the conclusion of the 2005 cotton marketing year.

      Followingthe vote on budget reconciliation Republican members of the House caucused toselect a new Majority Leader to replace Rep. Tom Delay who recently steppeddown from the GOP leadership post.

      Duringthe caucus Rep. John Boehner of Ohio was narrowly elected in a 122-109 run-offvote. Boehner was selected over Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri in the run-off afterRep. John Shadegg of Arizona withdrew his name from consideration after hefailed to win in the first round of balloting.

      Boehner,who served on the House Agriculture Committee prior to his election as MajorityLeader, assumes his duties immediately.

 

NRCS Announces 2006 Conservation Security
Program Sign-up Will Begin February 13

Friday,February 3, 2006                           By Shawn Wade

      Farmersand ranchers in five Texas watersheds will be able to submit applications forparticipation in the Conservation Security Program in 2006.

      AgricultureSecretary Mike Johanns announced January 31 that the 2006 Conservation SecurityProgram (CSP) sign-up will be held February 13, 2006 through March 31, 2006.

      Thefive Texas watersheds included in this sign-up are the East Fork Trinity, theWichita, the South Wichita, the Upper Prairie Dog Town Fork Red and the UpperBeaver, which will be shared with Oklahoma.

      CSPapplications will only be accepted from producers in the named watersheds whodo not have an existing CSP contract.

      Asoon to be published sign-up announcement will detail the specific programrequirements within each watershed. Approved CSP contracts will be determinedin a national selection process that will be described in the sign-up notice.

      Basedon available funding, an initial selection of 110 watersheds nationwide wasreduced to 60. In Texas a total of 12 watersheds were initially consideredbefore being limited to the five announced January 31.

      Ofparticular interest to High Plains landowners are the Upper Prairie Dog TownFork Red that includes all or part of Armstrong, Donley, Briscoe, Carson, Hall,Potter, Randall, Swisher, Deaf Smith and Donley counties; the South Wichitawatershed which includes parts of Dickens, King and Knox counties; and theUpper Beaver watershed which includes small portions of Dallam and Shermancounties.

 

FSA To Provide CRP Contract Extensions;
Announces General CRP Sign-up

Friday,February 3, 2006                           By Shawn Wade

      Approximatelyone-half of the four million acres currently enrolled in the ConservationReserve Program in Texas are set to expire in 2007. In order to bring someorder to the process, and to more efficiently stagger the expiration times forthese CRP acres, the Farm Service Agency has decided to offer automaticextensions to the contracts using the Environmental Benefits Index scores fromthe year the lands were last signed up to determine the length of the extensionthat will be offered.

      Basedon the EBI scores and verification that the acres remain eligible forparticipation, including consideration of program caps limiting CRP acreagewithin a county, CRP contracts expiring in 2007 will be automatically extended.

      AutomaticCRP contract extensions will be offered according to the following schedule:

Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) Score

Automatic

Extension Length

197-365

10 years

173-196

5 years

152-172

4 years

129-151

3 years

Less that 129

2 years

      FarmService Agency (FSA) county offices will notify CRP participants with expiringcontracts in 2007 by mail if they are eligible for re-enrollments orextensions.

      Beforeapproving a re-enrollment contract or an extended contract, FSA will review thecontract to ensure that the required cover is maintained and there iscompliance with other contract provisions. In addition, to be eligible,participants must be able to show that they meet eligibility requirements forthe new enrollment period. In the case of re-enrollments, updated rental rateswill apply.

      Alsoannounced by FSA January 31 was a general Conservation Reserve Program Sign-upbeginning March 27, 2006 and running through April 14, 2006.

      Offerspresented during the general CRP sign-up will be evaluated based on overallcost and the following environmental factors: wildlife, water, soil, air andenduring benefits.

      CRPis a voluntary program that helps farmers, ranchers and other agriculturalproducers protect their environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolling inCRP plant long-term, resource conserving covers, with Commodity CreditCorporation (CCC) providing rental payments, cost-share and technicalassistance.

      Formore information on CRP, contact your local FSA office or visit the FSA Website at:

http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crp.htm.

 

High PlainsProduction Conferences Offer
Education/CEU Opportunities for Producers

      Helpingfarmers stay up on the latest trends in crop production, marketing, andmanagement ideas is the number one goal of High Plains crop productionconferences.

      Sponsoredby Texas Cooperative Extension, the Conferences offer valuable productioninformation for producers entering the 2006 growing season.

      Conferencesare scheduled at multiple locations throughout the area to provide growers anopportunity to receive this information without having to travel too far fromhome.

      Byattending the conferences producers can also earn continuing education units(CEUs) necessary to maintain private and commercial applicator licenses.

      Thisyear's conference dates and locations are:

February 7

South Plains Ag Conference, 8:00 a.m.,

 

Nikki Vinson Youth Center, 110 W. Hill, Brownfield.

 

For more information contact Chris Bishop, Terry CEA-AG, at 806-637-4060.

February 9

Sandyland Agricultural Conference, 8:00 a.m.,

 

Gaines County Civic Building, Seminole. A total of 5 CEU credits will be available to licensed pesticide applicators at the meeting.

 

For more information contact Terry Millican, Gaines CEA-AG, at 432-758-4006.

February 10

Hale/Swisher Crops Conference, 9:00 a.m.,

 

Ollie Liner Center, Plainview. A total of 5 CEU credits will be available to licensed pesticide applicators at the meeting.

 

For more information contact Michael Dolle, Hale CEA-AG, at 806-291-5267.