DISASTER ASSISTANCE STILL UP IN THE AIR;
EFFORT SET TO RESUME WHEN CONGRESS RETURNS

Friday, October 6, 2006                              By Shawn Wade

      Congress has left the fate of the proposed 2005-2006 agriculture disaster assistance package in limbo following adjournment for the November election season. By not making any real progress toward passage of a 2005-2006 agriculture assistance package, efforts to secure a disaster bill will now have to be revisited after the November elections and during the lame duck session of Congress that will follow.

      With many close races being predicted and thin margins in Congress, the upcoming lame duck session could be extremely interesting to watch depending on how the election season pans out. Either way, most observers in Washington seem to agree that Congress will revisit the disaster assistance issue, most likely as part of an omnibus appropriation bill.

      Whether or not an emergency disaster assistance program is provided through a stand-alone bill or as part of a larger omnibus appropriation bill makes little difference to producers who have suffered weather related losses in 2005 or 2006.

      What is important is that the assistance be designated as emergency spending. An emergency designation ensures Congress provides agricultural assistance in the same manner as other emergency assistance programs recently approved to help hurricane ravaged citizens and communities on the Gulf Coast.

      An emergency designation wasn't allowed when Congress passed the last agricultural assistance bill and unfairly included requirements for agriculture budget offsets that forced Congress to take money away from other important programs to pay for the disaster assistance directed to farmers and ranchers.

      It's ironic that budget offsets were not required when Congress helped residents of the Gulf Coast, who at least had the option to buy full replacement value insurance on their homes and businesses, but seems to automatically head the list of requirements when discussing agricultural assistance for producers whose insurance options are limited and usually provide only partial coverage of a farmer's crops and livestock.

      Despite efforts in both the House and Senate to break the disaster assistance issue loose during the September work period, it was clear that Congressional Republicans prefer to deal with the issue later rather than sooner in order to avoid a bidding war with Democrats prior to November elections.

      For High Plains farmers watching the issue unfold, a lot of hope had been vested in the efforts of House Democrats to gather enough signatures on a Discharge Petition (H.R. 998) to bring the issue to the House floor. So far the Petition has garnered only 198 of the 218 signatures needed to be successful.

      To date the effort has seen 195 Democrats sign the Discharge Petition. Only two Republican members of the House, Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, and one Independent, Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, agreed to sign the Petition before Congress adjourned.

      This disparity has lead many producers, who have been repeatedly assured that their Representatives support passage of disaster assistance, to wonder why there weren't more Republican signatures on the document.

      In mid-September High Plains Representatives on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock and Rep. Mike Conaway of Midland, participated in a Capitol Hill press conference to ask members of Congress to act quickly to approve a comprehensive disaster aid package and help U.S. farmers and ranchers cope with the effects of this year's drought and other weather related losses incurred during the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons.

      Republican support for the Discharge Petition was likely discouraged by the Republican leadership in the House who seem to have been worried about creating a bidding war on disaster assistance prior to the November elections.

      Even though the petition effort came up short before the break, the good news for producers is that the Discharge Petition is still alive and disaster assistance supporters in the House have time to seek the signatures they need during the election recess.

      If enough signatures are secured, the issue could be one of the first items that Congress works on when they return.

      Producer leaders from the High Plains, and all of Texas agriculture, continue to work with the region's Representatives in the House and both Texas Senators to pass a 2005-2006 disaster assistance bill when Congress returns. There seems to be plenty of support for an Ag disaster assistance package within Congress, the challenge is finding the right combination of legislation and political will to get the job done.

SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON SET TO ADDRESS
PCG BOARD OF DIRECTORS OCTOBER 11

Friday, October 6, 2006                              By Shawn Wade

      Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will address the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. Board and other agriculture representatives at the conclusion of the organization's quarterly Board of Directors meeting October 11 at Cagles Steaks in Lubbock.

      Senator Hutchison is scheduled to arrive at Noon and address the group during the lunch hour following PCG's meeting. Seating for the event is limited and those interested in joining the PCG Board to hear Senator Hutchison's remarks are asked to RSVP no later than Monday, October 9 by contacting Plains Cotton Growers at 806-792-4904.

2006 COTTON QUALITY SUMMARY

      The following is a summary of the cotton classed at the Lubbock and Lamesa USDA Cotton Division Cotton Classing Offices for the 2006 production season.

SEASON

Bales

Color

Leaf

Staple

Lamesa

7,377

21

2.5

34.85

Lubbock

4,848

21

3.5

35.11

 

Mike

Strength

Uniformity

Bark

Lamesa

4.54

28.81

80.63

5.8%

Lubbock

4.35

28.67

80.97

2.8%