FIRST WAVE OF FARM BILL DEBATE:ADMINISTRATION
READIES BUDGET, FARM POLICY RELEASES

Friday, January 26, 2007                           By Shawn Wade

      The process of updating U.S.agriculture policy will officially get underway over the next two weeks as theBush Administration prepares to offer its Budget and farm policyrecommendations to Congress.

      The Administration'spositions on the Budget and farm policy are essentially recommendations andnothing more, so the larger questions will be what the reaction in farm countrywill be and to what extent Congress will consider the recommendations.

      First out of the chute forthe Administration will most likely be the Farm Bill blueprint they would liketo see implemented upon expiration of the 2002 Farm Bill. While no specific informationregarding the Administration's plan has been made available, most observersexpect that the policy statement will at some level reduce the safety net forU.S. farmers and ranchers, both in terms of funding and structure.

      Supporting that opinion arethe comments of USDA Secretary Mike Johanns who has been consistent in sayingthat the Administration believes current U.S. farm policy provisions areinequitable in terms of providing support to producers and are susceptible tochallenge and scrutiny in the international trade policy arena.

      On the other side of theledger is Congress, where there is considerable support for the current farmpolicy's funding and structure since it has proven to be a strong safety netand fiscally responsible. Lower projected costs associated with the currentpolicy also diminish chances for a successful WTO attack in the future.

      Perhaps the most vocal ofthis group is House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), who has voicedhis strong support for the framework of the 2002 Farm Bill and an intent to useit as the basis for U.S. policy going forward.

      With such a divergent dynamicin place the debate will, as usual, hinge on the overall budget provided towrite the bill. New needs have been identified since 2002 while existing needshave not diminished at all, creating the need for additional budget resources.

      Groups representingnon-program crops, conservation and renewable energy are lined up and ready tomake their cases for increased funding under the next farm bill.

      To accommodate them will takeconcerted effort and a willingness to secure additional funding authority. Thatreality has not been lost on agriculture groups or Congressional leaders.Efforts to secure a broad foundation of support for the infusion of new fundinginto the Farm Bill to meet those needs have already begun.

      The bottom line is that withagriculture funding already having declined by more than $21 billion, accordingto the Congressional Budget Office, it should receive some credit for thesesavings.

PRESIDENT'S BUDGET WILL BEEYE-OPENING

      With farm groups andCongressional leaders already working to find additional funding, the releaseof the Bush Administration's budget recommendations on February 5 will be ofparticular interest to many.

      In evaluating theAdministration's budget request it should become clear just how committed theAdministration is to fully funding its vision for supporting agriculture.

      Following the February 5release of the Administration budget, House and Senate Agriculture Committeeshave about six weeks to develop their FY08 budget requests and forward them tothe House and Senate Budget Committees.

      The House and Senate BudgetCommittees must then develop and report a budget resolution by March 15 with theserequests in mind. The scheduled date for having this process complete and aJoint Budget resolution passed by both the House and Senate is April 15. Although this timetable is laid out in the congressional budget process, thedates often slip and sometimes no budget is ultimately agreed upon.

      During this budget process,strong efforts will be made by farm bill supporters in Congress and agriculturegroups to fully fund current program provisions and secure the necessaryfunding authority to fill in some of the gaps perceived to exist within currentpolicy.

      Agriculture has a great storyto tell in regard to the effectiveness and fiscal responsibility of the currentfarm program. The 2002 Farm Bill has come in roughly $21 billion under budgetso far and, if maintained, is expected to yield even more savings.

      "There is a very strong casethat the Farm Bill should be given credit for having already come in about $21billion under budget, with additional savings expected in the future if currentpolicy is kept in place," says Combest, Sell & Associates policy analystJeff Harrison. "This significantly lower than expected cost of farm policy hasthe added benefit of making a WTO case against U.S. farm policy extremelydifficult."

      "I think there is a sense inCongress among leaders in agriculture that we ought to stick with a provenpolicy that works," said Harrison, "rather than yield to ideological agendasthat would take us off in some direction that could ultimately prove fiscallyirresponsible, cause greater exposure to WTO litigation, and weaken the farmsafety net."

      Agriculture deserves budgetcredit for these large savings and ought to be given the opportunity to applythat credit to address any new needs identified by members of Congress, theAdministration, and others.

      Final budget figures willultimately be based on the Congressional Budget Offices (CBO) 10-yearprojection to be released in March. The March 2007 CBO baseline will in largepart dictate the amount of spending authority that will be available to workwith relative to current programs.

      Based on the likelihood oflower projected program costs, the baseline figure is expected to provide lessroom for House Ag Committee members to work and points to the importance ofadditional spending authority being granted to agriculture, over and above whatthe baseline allows, to address new needs.

 

OPPORTUNITIESREMAIN FOR PRODUCERS TO
ATTEND HIGH PLAINS PRODUCTION CONFERENCES

      Helping farmers stay up onthe latest trends in crop production, marketing, and management ideas is thenumber one goal of High Plains crop production conferences. Sponsored by TexasCooperative Extension, the Conferences offer production information forproducers entering the 2007 growing season.

      Conferences are scheduled atmultiple locations throughout the area to provide growers an opportunity toreceive this information without having to travel too far from home.

      By attending the conferencesproducers can also earn continuing education units (CEUs) necessary to maintainprivate and commercial applicator licenses.

      Weather has impacted theschedule for several of this year's conferences and a revised listing ofrescheduled and remaining conference dates and locations appears below.

 

2007 High Plains ProductionConference Schedule

February 6

Sandyland Ag Conference

 

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

February 7

Hale/Swisher Crops Conference

 

For more information contact Michael Dolle, Hale CEA-AG at 806-291-5268.

February 7

South Plains Ag Conference

 

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

February 27

Caprock Cotton Conference

 

For more information contact J.D. Ragland, Floyd CEA-AG, at 806-983-4912.

 

March 2

 

West Plains Cotton Conference

 

For more information contact Chris Edens, Hockley CEA-AG at 806-894-2406.

 

FOUR BOLL WEEVIL ZONES COMPLETE DEBT
REPAYMENT; ASSESSMENTS TO BE LOWERED

Friday, January 26, 2007                           ByRoger Haldenby

      Boll weevil eradication was avery touchy subject a decade ago and, as High Plains zones were being voted onin 1999 thru 2001, naysayers chided grower committees accusing, "ourgrandchildren will still be paying off debt and we'll never see assessmentslowered."

      Those taunts are provingill-founded as Boll Weevil Grower Committees have met these past few weeks inthe Northwest Plains, Northern High Plains, Southern High Plains and PanhandleZones.

      Each of these zones havedemonstrated the success of the boll weevil eradication program and have nowtotally eliminated their debt, many years ahead of schedule.

      They are also each in theprocess of making recommendations to the Texas Boll Weevil EradicationFoundation board and to the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture that growerassessments in 2007 be dramatically reduced.

      The Western High Plains Zoneand the Permian Basin Zone have both been held back by the delayed entry intothe eradication program of the St. Lawrence Zone to the south. However, with anactive zone in that area now having been operational during the past threeseasons the job of eliminating the boll weevil is well under way.

      Announcements of the newassessment rates in each zone are expected in the next few weeks.

 

2006-CROP COTTON QUALITY SUMMARY

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

 

Week Ending January 25, 2007:

Running Bales Classed = 106,835

 

Office

Bales

Color

Leaf

Staple

Lamesa

24,992

21+ – 63%

31 – 28%

3.04

35.80

Lubbock

81,843

21+ – 58%

31 – 32%

3.13

35.84

 

Mike

Strength

Uniformity

Bark

Lamesa

3.81

28.63

80.49

26.3%

Lubbock

3.48

28.44

80.50

43.8%

 

Season Totals To Date:

Running Bales Classed = 3,719,303

 

Office

Bales

Color

Leaf

Staple

Lamesa

808,613

21+ – 65%

31 – 30%

3.00

35.98

Lubbock

2,910,690

21+ – 54%

31 – 40%

3.13

36.12

 

Mike

Strength

Uniformity

Bark

Lamesa

4.00

29.15

80.68

13.1%

Lubbock

3.78

29.50

81.00

22.2%