Disaster Measure Fails To Garner VotesNeeded
For Emergency Spending Designation

Friday, December 8, 2006                    By Shawn Wade

      Disappointment was theoverriding emotion expressed by Texas farmers and ranchers following the Senate’sfailure to approve an amendment to the FY07 Agriculture Appropriations billthat would have expanded the existing 2005-only disaster program language to a2005 and 2006 program capable of providing meaningful relief to Texasagriculture.

      It is estimated that in 2006drought and wildfires in Texas alone have caused well over $4 billion dollarsin agricultural losses.

      Plains Cotton Growers hascommunicated this fact regularly to legislators in the House of Representativesand the Senate for months and advocated the passage of a disaster aid packageprogram that allows growers to qualify for assistance in either 2005 or 2006,in order to extend coverage to the broadest possible number of impactedgrowers, and includes a supplemental Direct payment.

      The most recent effort to expandthe current proposal was put forth earlier this week by Democratic Senator KentConrad of North Dakota and debated on the Senate floor December 5.

      The amendment, which wouldexpanded the 2005-only program and designated the program’s expenditures asemergency spending, failed to receive the 60 votes required to waive the budgetrules requiring offsets to pay for the expansion by a mere 3 votes.

      Senior Texas Senator KayBailey Hutchison voted for the proposal and the emergency spending designation.Senator John Cornyn, despite stating on numerous occasions his support fordisaster assistance, voted against the proposal.

      In a statement issued afterthe vote Cornyn said, “I strongly support the original disaster aid package toprovide assistance for Texas producers who were harmed by drought conditionsand wildfire. It’s important to note that $4 billion in aid will be provided ifwe pass this overall bill, which would have been nearly impossible with theamendment that was proposed this week.

      “The amendment would haveincreased deficit spending by nearly $1 billion at a time when the Americanpeople have asked Congress for stronger fiscal restraint. And the White Housesaid the President would likely veto the overall bill if it had included thisamendment.”

      There is no doubt that abroad-based assistance package is needed to address weather-related losses, allof which stem from adverse weather patterns incurred in late 2005 andthroughout 2006.

      With the failure of thelatest effort by such a slim margin it is certain that a renewed effort tobroaden the currently proposed assistance package will occur. The most likelytime for such action is after the Senate returns from its December break andstarts working on the omnibus appropriations package needed to finalize theremaining FY07 appropriations bills.

      In the interim, Texasproducers are forced to sit and wait for word that help is actually on its wayand that their 2006 losses will be covered.

      For High Plains cottonproducers, who saw well over one million acres of non-irrigated cotton failedbecause of the drought, passage of a disaster assistance package is at the topof their Christmas wish list.

      Hopefully, Santa and hishelpers in Washington will step forward and work together to pull together acomprehensive package that doesn’t leave anyone out in the cold.

 

2007 DCP Program To Operate Somewhat
Differently For A Variety Of Reasons

Friday, December 8, 2006                    By Shawn Wade

      Sign-upfor the 2007 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) began October 1, 2006and producers are already beginning to see the first payments under thatprogram being issued.

      Whatis catching their eye however, is the fact that the amount of those firstpayments is considerably less than they are used to seeing thanks to last year’sBudget Reconciliation process that changed the amount of the Direct paymentsfor last year’s program and more noticeably, for the 2007-crop Direct payment.

      Thechange in the amount of the 2007 advance Direct payment however, is just one ofthe differences that producers need to be aware of heading into the 2007growing season.

      The2002 Farm Bill allowed DCP participants the option to request a 50 percentadvance Direct payment as early as December 1 following the start of the DCP sign-upperiod for the 2002 through 2007 crop years.

      Budgetreconciliation changed that for the 2006 and 2007 DCP programs. Last year the2006 advance direct payment was reduced to 40 percent for growers thatrequested the advance after the adoption of the FY06 Agriculturalappropriations measure.

      Thatsame measure also specified that the 2007 advance Direct payment would beoffered at the normal time, but at a significantly lower 22 percent rate. Inboth instances the final Direct payment date was left unchanged.

      Producersbegan signing up for the 2007 DCP program on October 1, 2006 and are eligibleto begin receiving their advance Direct payments on December 1. Growersrequesting an advance Direct payment can receive the payment in any monthbetween December 2006 and October 2007.

      Forproducers already signed-up in the 2007 DCP, county FSA offices are in theprocess of issuing the 22 percent advance 2007-crop Direct payment. Theremaining 78 percent of the 2007 Direct payment will be paid beginning October1, 2007.

      Thesecond significant change producers will notice for 2007 is the different wayin which the 2002 Farm Bill handles payments made through the Counter-cyclicalpayment program.

      Forthe 2002 through 2006 crop years the Counter-cyclical program, when a CCPpayment was projected by the Secretary of Agriculture, provided growers theoption of receiving a 35 percent advance payment after the first three monthsof the marketing year and another 35 percent payment six months into themarketing year.

      Growerswho did not ask to receive the first 35 percent partial payment could request asingle 70 percent partial payment at the six-month mark, which allowed them anopportunity to shift income into a different tax year.

      Forthe 2007 crop year the payment schedule is somewhat different in that the 2002Farm Bill specifies that only one advance partial CC payment will be offeredsix months after the start of the 2007 marketing year. The maximum amount ofthis partial payment, which would be paid in February of 2008, is 40 percent ofthe projected CC payment rate projected by the Secretary at that time.

 

2007 EQIP Sign-up Deadline Is Dec. 15

      TheUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas has received itsallocation for conservation cost-share programs for 2007 and agriculturalproducers interested in funding for 2007 need to apply at their local NRCSoffice by December 15, 2006.

      Texashas received nearly $72.5 million for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program(EQIP) and $665,000 for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) thatwill be used to fund cost-share programs within the state in 2007.

      NRCSaccepts conservation program applications year-round; however, applicationsmust be made by the December 15, 2006, cutoff date to be considered for fundingin 2007. Applications made after the application deadline will be considered inthe next funding cycle.

      Dr.Larry Butler, Texas NRCS state conservationist, says that there is still timeto get an application turned in and included in the ranking process that willdetermine who receives 2007 assistance.

      Henotes that anyone interested in applying for 2007 EQIP funds must have anapplication submitted to their local NRCS office by December 15.

      NRCSranks applications in December, in order to allow adequate time to sign andfund new contracts shortly after the first of the year so producers can beginimplementing conservation practices.