Friday,August 11, 2006 By Shawn Wade
Anyway you slice it cotton farmers are facing a significant challenge from MotherNature in 2006 and will be looking to Congress for help comparable to thesupport that has been provided to victims of other recent natural disasters.
Thechallenge for agriculture will be giving our representatives in Congress theinformation they need to get the process moving as soon as possible.
Perhapsthe biggest thing farmers can do to help insure this happens is take an activerole in encouraging their elected representatives to be leaders in the effortto obtain an agricultural disaster assistance package to alleviate the strainthis year's drought is putting on farmers and ranchers across the UnitedStates.
Agriculture'sproblems are not isolated in nature or minor in terms of their severity.Growers from coast to coast are dealing with significant impacts from adverseweather in addition to significantly increased production costs that they haveno way to recoup on their own.
TheHigh Plains of Texas is a clear example of why agriculture needs disasterassistance as the losses continue to mount. With Congress adjourned for itsannual August district work period the time to reinforce the severity ofagriculture's situation has arrived and growers need to seize every opportunityto get the word out.
Awayfrom Washington until after September 1, Congress has left itself a narrow5-week window to complete any legislative business that needs to be finishedbefore their planned October 6 adjournment in advance of the Novemberelections. It is vital that Congress' agenda include development and passage ofa 05/06 agriculture disaster package and the necessary legislation to carry it.
Withsuch a tight timeframe, there is no time to waste and Congress must beencouraged to work on the issue immediately upon its return and not allowunnecessary delays.
Asrecently as this week, Administration officials and some Congressional leadershave tried to slow-play efforts to pull together an agriculture assistancepackage arguing that it is "too early" to tell how much of a problem trulyexists.
Withthe High Plains cotton crop progressing at a rapid pace as a result of thedrought, the unfortunate reality is that the outlook for much of the area'scotton will be clear by the time Congress reconvenes in September.
Thedrought has significantly lowered crop prospects for cotton and othercommodities and continues to seriously impact the State's livestock industry.
Thisweek's USDA Crop Production report illustrates the severity of the situation.Upland Cotton yield prospects are significantly below the previous two cropyears. Statewide, USDA has estimated Texas production at 5.1 million bales withthe High Plains of Texas accounting for 3.52 million bales of that total. Mostcrop watchers feel the August figures represent the best-case scenario for thecrop and that continued dry conditions, especially here on the High Plains,will ultimately drag the estimate lower.
Thewriting is on the wall and the message that needs to be sent to Congress isthat the situation is already severe enough to warrant action. The time forCongress to act is now.
IndividualProducer Input Is Critical
Whileour Congressional representatives are well aware of the crop situation backhome, it is critical that growers take the time to reinforce the need for anassistance package and encourage them to go back and take the lead indeveloping a comprehensive 05/06 agriculture assistance package.
Duringthe August recess, High Plains Congressmen Mac Thornberry, Randy Neugebauer andMike Conaway are all back in their home districts holding meetings, meetingconstituents and creating opportunities for growers to let them know exactlyhow the drought is affecting their operations and communities.
Producersshould take the time to find out when Rep. Thornberry, Neugebauer or Conawayare going to be in or near their community and then participate in thoseevents.
Callsand messages to Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn are alsoencouraged. In this way we can provide these two Texas leaders with theinformation they need to address the issue in the Senate.
Takingthe time to make contact with members of Congress at local events, or bysending a message via the telephone or email, arms them with the tools theywill need to advance the issue as quickly as possible.
PCGRequests Procedural Relief From RMA
Furtherevidence that the extent of this year's crop disaster will be pretty well knownby the time Congress returns from their August recess comes from the TexasCooperative Extension service. TCE crop reports from across the High Plainsdocument the droughts impact on dryland and irrigated crops throughout theregion and paint a dismal picture in many areas.
Morethan half of the region's dryland cotton acres (over 970,000 acres) havealready been lost because they did not have enough moisture to establish a viablestand. The condition of the dryland crop that remains is mostly rated poor tovery poor with severely reduced yield potential.
Becauseof the rapid development of marginal dryland fields, Plains Cotton Growers hasasked USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Eldon Gould to authorize adeviation from normal Federal Crop Insurance rules and allow dryland fields tobe appraised using a modified boll count appraisal procedure.
Inaddition to asking for boll count appraisals earlier than normal based on theadvanced status of the 2006 dryland crop, PCG's request also asked RMA toaccount for the smaller boll size that will be indicative of the droughtstressed dryland crop.
RisingEnergy Costs Also Taking Toll
Irrigatedcrops are also being adversely impacted from both a physiological and economicstandpoint in 2006. Physically the hot, dry conditions that have devastateddryland prospects have also made it difficult on the area's irrigated crop.
Irrigatedcotton on the High Plains is facing its own challenges from a one-twocombination of increasing energy costs and reduced yield potential as watersupplies struggle to keep pace with crop demands.
Thishas limited the ability of some irrigated crops to add additional fruitingnodes and shortened the bloom period by several weeks in fields with weakerirrigation supplies.
Onthe input side, rapidly increasing cost of energy to fuel tractors andirrigation pumps has pushed expenses to the limit and forced many irrigatedgrowers to go "All-In" on their crop in hopes of making an above average cropand improving their chances of breaking even in 2006.
Withthe Labor Day weekend only a few short weeks away, the August/Septembercalendar is rapidly filling up with County Crop Tours and Industry Field Dayevents.
Thetable below contains a partial listing of the events already scheduled. Growersinterested in attending any of the Texas Cooperative Extension events shouldcontact the appropriate TCE County office to request additional details.
Cotton Industry Field Day Events
Dawson/Lubbock Crop Tour
Parmer/Bailey Crop tour
Sandyland Ag Tour
Yoakum County Crop Tour
Floyd County Crop Tour
Lynn County Ag Tour
Mitchell County Ag Tour
Crosby County Crop Tour