July PCG Board ofDirectors Meeting Focuses
On Crop Issues and Legislative Outlook

Friday, July 7, 2006                               By Shawn Wade

      Dryconditions and updates on State and Federal legislative issues took centerstage at the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. Board during the organization'squarterly Board of Directors meeting July 5.

      Withthe 2006 High Plains crop off to a rough start due to lingering droughtconditions, PCG Board members were particularly interested in hearing how thecrop was faring in other parts of the organization's 41-county serviceterritory.

      Whilethe Board heard several reports of irrigated cotton in various locations thatcontinue to rate in the good to excellent categories, the biggest storycontinues to be the dwindling prospects for dryland acres throughout the area.

      Basedon the reports heard at the meeting, PCG's current projection that the HighPlains could eventually see up to one million acres of dryland cotton abandonedduring the course of the 2006 growing season appears to be reasonably accurateand possibly even be somewhat conservative.

      Asit becomes increasingly probable that failed cotton could exceed the onemillion acre mark, two items of discussion, the growing need for disasterassistance and the failed acreage policies in current High Plains boll weevileradication zones, received considerable attention during the discussion.

      Inregard to disaster assistance the Board was privileged to have former HouseAgriculture Committee Staff member Tom Sell, of Combest-Sell and Associates, onhand to provide his views on the current Washington legislative landscape foragriculture. Sell covered a wide variety of topics including the growingawareness of the drought situation that is developing.

      Henoted that several Senators have expressed a desire to renew efforts to provideagricultural disaster assistance. He added that as the extent of currentproblems become clearer the chances for a disaster program including 2006 cropsincreases.

      Selladded that a variety of factors will ultimately impact how the disasterassistance effort develops and encouraged PCG to remain in communication withtheir representatives in the House and Senate to ensure the area's interestsare included.

      Inregard to failed acres and current boll weevil program failed acreage policies,Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation executive director Lindy Patton,reported that the failed acreage and assessment policies in individual zonesare based on the program situation that exists in that particular zone.

      Pattonexplained that as each zone pays down debt accumulated during the early yearsof the eradication program the zone grower advisory committees gain additionalflexibility to recommend changes to the TBWF Board and the TDA Commissionerregarding failed acreage and assessment policies. He noted that the approvalprocess for grower committee recommendations is started well in advance of thegrowing season and allows little room for adjustment later on.

      Pattonadvised growers that operate in zones with failed acreage programs that providea credit for acres failed before the Farm Service Agency's AcreageCertification Date to make sure that they get their acres certified as failedbefore the July 15 deadline. He noted that there is no requirement within thecrop insurance program preventing a grower from certifying the acreage asfailed at the FSA office before an insurance representative evaluates andreleases the acres.

      Healso advised that when acres are failed that the producer communicate with localeradication program office personnel to ensure that they are aware of the cropsstatus and the status of any field operations necessary to keep the acreagefree of hostable cotton for the remainder of the growing season.

      Inother business, the Board was given an update on State legislative issues byState Representative Delwin Jones of Lubbock, adopted a 2006 2007 OperatingBudget and discussed upcoming PCG participation in a number of industrysponsored activities.

 

National Weather Service Website Features
Innovative, Informative Weather Products

Friday, July 7, 2006                               By Shawn Wade

      Foragricultural producers having accurate and detailed weather information readilyavailable allows them to quickly adapt to changing weather conditions and makethe best use of the materials and technologies available to them.

      Fora growing number of producers the Internet is becoming a preferred source forup to the minute weather information. One of the Internet's best sources ofweather information is the National Weather Service.

      Arecent tour of the NWS's Southern Region Headquarters homepage (http://www.srh.noaa.gov) brought to light just how much useful informationis available to the general public and to farmers in particular.

      Oneof the most innovative of the new weather products currently available is agraphical version of the NWS's Point Forecast Matrices. Point forecasts arenear-term predictions developed for a particular location that predict weatherconditions at regular intervals throughout the day.

      Calledthe Hourly Weather Graph, the new graphical interface allows users to seehourly forecasts from the time they log on to the webpage and for the next fourdays. The page also allows users to select the weather parameters they want toview, including temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity andprecipitation, in an interactive and exceptionally useful new way.

      Findingthe Hourly Weather Graph for a particular location near one of the NWS'sreporting stations is fairly easy. From the Lubbock website (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lub/)click anywhere on the map in the center of the page to select the location andview a detailed 7-day forecast. To find the Hourly Weather Graph scroll downthe page to the "Additional Forecasts and Information" box on the right-handside and click the "Hourly Weather Graph" link.

      The Hourly WeatherForecast is just one example of the useful weather products available from theNational Weather Service that can assist farmers as they plan the wide varietyof field operations.

WTO Talks Stall Again As Negotiators
Watch Another Key Deadline Slip Away

Friday, July 7, 2006                               By Shawn Wade

      Fordecades U.S. trade policy, especially in the area of agricultural trade, haspromised that increased access to foreign markets for U.S. products, especiallyin developing countries, was the key to a broader prosperity for U.S. farmersand ranchers.

      Afterall that time and despite adopting an "open door" policy to products from othercountries, the U.S. continues to be virtually locked out of most of thesemarkets and the benefits that should accrue to U.S. farmers have failed tomaterialize.

      Thecurrent attempt to gain meaningful market access for U.S. agricultural productsis manifest in the currently stalled WTO Doha Developmental Round negotiations.

      Withexpiration of the Bush Administration's Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) still ayear away, casual observers of the Doha negotiations might think that time isthe least of the problems facing WTO negotiators from the U.S. and the rest ofthe world.

      Acloser look at the significant number of steps that remain to be completed andthe logistics of completing the detailed version of the agreement reveals thefallacy of that perception.

      Forthose that have doubts about the WTO's ability to deliver the benefits promisedin any new WTO agricultural agreement, the most recent collapse in the talkswas not an unexpected, or necessarily unwelcome, occurrence.

      Withjust a year remaining to get an agreement through the U.S. Congress undercurrent "Fast-Track" authority, hammering out the broader parameters of theagreement may be only half of the challenge.

      Theoverriding concern of all parties is the need to get an agreement to the U.S.Congress early enough to be considered under the voting rules provided by TPA.Making that deadline means the agreement would have to be considered withoutany opportunity to be amended by Congress and would have to essentially bevoted up or down exactly as it is presented.

      Basedon strong opposition of U.S. farm groups and a growing number of U.S.Congressional leaders to consideration of further U.S. concessions, the U.S.position going into last weekend's meetings in Geneva was clearly stated andthankfully, adhered too by new U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

      Followingthe break-up of the Geneva meetings, and in the face of accusations that theU.S. position was the main reason for the continuing impasse, it is clear thatthe Doha round is beginning to run out of time.

      Fornow there is no question that additional efforts will be made to find commonground and complete a Doha agreement. Unfortunately, past history indicates fewif any real benefits will ever trickle down to the U.S. farmer if a new deal isstruck.

      Schwabsays the U.S. continues to be committed to achieving a successful agreement andthat U.S. negotiators are "ready to roll up our sleeves and work to find thebreakthrough that will enable the successful conclusion of the Doha Round."

      Followingthe weekend collapse, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss,reiterated the point that Congress is not willing to allow the U.S. tounilaterally disarm itself and that any proposal to reduce U.S. domesticsupport levels is conditional on the amount of market access benefit that flowsback to U.S. farmers and ranchers.

      Fornow it seems that U.S. agriculture owes its thanks to Ambassador Schwab and ourrepresentatives in Congress for standing firm and not giving in to the demandsof outside interests that simply want the U.S. to give more and take less.

      Italso appears that more people, and their representatives in Congress, areunsatisfied and seriously considering the possibility that the WTO's history ofunrealized promises, nebulous enforcement and insidious ability to allowexternal forces to drive our domestic policy decisions are the only realresults the U.S. can expect from further WTO participation.

 

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