Friday,February 9, 2007 By Shawn Wade
Awhirlwind pace, and the assistance of the Washington-based agriculture lobbyingfirm Combest Sell and Associates, allowed representatives from the SouthwestCouncil of Agribusiness (SWCA) to make the organization's inaugural Washington,DC visit one to remember.
Representingthe SWCA were President Mark Williams of Farwell; Vice President Dee Vaughan ofDumas; Secretary-Treasurer Steve Verett of Lubbock; and SWCA Board membersMitchell Harris of Lubbock, Bud Holmes of Lubbock, Matt Huie of Beeville andTag Webb of Kansas City, Missouri.
FormerCongressman Larry Combest of Lubbock, along with Combest Sell associates TomSell and Jeff Harrison, joined the SWCA contingent as they made theirWashington rounds.
TheSWCA is an alliance of nearly 50 farm and ranch organizations, implementdealers, bankers, farm credit associations and other main street businesses inand around Texas that was formed to advocate maintenance of a strong U.S. farmpolicy, which is critically important to rural communities.
Introducingthe organization and driving home the organization's premise that farm policyaffects more than just producers was a primary goal for SWCA leaders as theymet key members and staff from the House of Representatives, Senate and theUnited States Department of Agriculture (USDA) February 7-9.
Inaddition to highlighting the broad impact of current farm policy, a main focusfor SWCA members was the budget and encouraging the authorization of addedbudget resources for development of the 2007 Farm Bill.
Whilein Washington the group met with Texas Senator John Cornyn; House AgricultureCommittee (HAC) Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN); Senate Budget CommitteeChairman Kent Conrad (D-ND); Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking member SaxbyChambliss (R-GA); HAC Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and RiskManagement Chairman Bob Etheridge (D-NC); Hunter Moorehead, Special Assistantto the President for Agriculture; Dr. Mark Keenum, USDA Undersecretary for Farmand Foreign Agriculture Service; Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX); Rep. MikeConaway (R-TX); Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX); Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX); Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS); and, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK).
SWCAleaders also met with Congressional staff representing Rep. Chet Edwards(D-TX), Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) and Rep. Rueben Hinojosa (D-TX) and with professionalstaff from the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate AgricultureCommittee.
Getting Credit Where Credit Is Due
The SWCA's budget message was particularly timely in light of the recent release of the Bush Administration's FY08 Budget recommendation earlier in the week and the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 2007 Farm bill recommendation January 31.
SWCA Secretary Steve Verett said there was considerable interest in the SWCA and its make-up among Congressional staff and Legislators. He adds, however, that it is the need to capture current farm program savings to fully fund the safety net provisions of the Commodity title and seek out new spending authority to create a permanent disaster program and expand programs in the Conservation and Energy titles that garnered the most attention.
Verett said that there were also discussions with those in Congress who will soon craft the 2007 Farm Bill about the Administration's farm bill proposal. SWCA leaders noted that while the proposal is much closer to the current farm program than many expected, the reality is that overall the program still misses the mark with both producers and members of Congress.
Among the key points SWCA reiterated were the current Farm Bill's fiscally responsible mechanisms, that trigger payments only when market conditions warrant them, and the fact that the current bill will spend more than $21 billion less than initial estimates.
SWCA encouraged the Congressional leaders they met with to build upon the current program's success by using the savings it has generated to improve and expand the safety net it provides farmers against uncertain market conditions and weather related disasters.
"While no one is predicting easy solutions to the challenges that face us during the development of the 2007 Farm Bill, we have been gratified by the warm reception that the Southwest Council and its message has received so far," says SWCA President Mark Williams. "It is clear from everyone we have visited with that the people ultimately responsible for writing the next farm bill do understand the broader impact this legislation has on our communities and our country. Their enthusiasm for the task is encouraging and we look forward to working with them to craft a bill that protects the interests of U.S. agriculture."
Helping farmers stay up on the latest trends in crop production, marketing, and management ideas is the number one goal of High Plains crop production conferences. Sponsored by Texas Cooperative Extension, the Conferences offer production information for producers entering the 2007 growing season.
By attending the conferences producers can also earn continuing education units (CEUs) necessary to maintain private and commercial applicator licenses.
2007 High Plains Production Conference Schedule
Caprock Cotton Conference
For more information contact J.D. Ragland, Floyd CEA-AG, at 806-983-4912.
West Plains Cotton Conference
For more information contact Chris Edens, Hockley CEA-AG at 806-894-2406.