DISASTER ASSISTANCE FOR 2005/2006 GAINING
TRACTION; HOUSEDISCUSSES ALTERNATIVE PLAN

Friday, February 23, 2007                          By Shawn Wade

      Calls for a 2005/2006agriculture disaster assistance package are still being heard and Congressseems to be hard at work figuring out exactly how to move the process forward.

      The obvious question forgrowers who suffered losses in 2005, 2006 or both is just what a new cropdisaster assistance program might include and how the program would bestructured.

      In remarks presented duringthe Texas Ag Forum in Austin earlier this week, House Agriculture CommitteeChairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) said that the House is still working on itsproposal for a 2005/2006 Crop Disaster Program (CDP), but assured those inattendance that the effort was moving forward.

      Peterson was able to providefew details about the evolving House proposal other than to say that thingsseem to be moving toward a recommendation that would provide growers the choiceof receiving disaster benefits in either 2005 or 2006, but not both, and togovern the program in the same manner as the 2003/2004 CDP program to simplifyadministration and speed implementation.

      Peterson also said that theHouse was not currently contemplating any additional payments, such as asupplemental direct payment, in conjunction with its 2005/2006 disasterproposal.

      Timing is the next bigunknown, but both the House and Senate appear to be targeting the Iraqsupplemental spending bill, which could come up for consideration within thenext few weeks, as the vehicle to carry a disaster program. As always anydifferences that exist between the House and Senate would be worked out inconference committee between representatives from the two bodies.

      Some compromises will nodoubt have to be made before any program is finally approved since the mostrecent version of disaster assistance under consideration in the Senate isdifferent from what Chairman Peterson indicates is being drafted in the House.

      In the Senate the latestproposal comes from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) who hasbeen working to gain passage of disaster assistance since early last year.

      The Senate proposal is titledthe "Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2007." As currently envisioned, the Senateplan would provide growers the ability to receive crop loss assistance forlosses incurred in 2005, 2006 or both.

      Senator Conrad's proposalwould provide growers a traditional disaster assistance package, almostidentical to what is being talked about in the House, with a 35 percenteligibility threshold.

      The obvious difference thatcurrently exists between the House approach and the Senate proposal is theSenate's scaled down payment formula that would allow growers to receivebenefits for qualified losses incurred in both 2005 and 2006 instead of makingthem choose only one year or the other.

      The other difference is thatthe House is targeting the 2003/2004 administrative model to speedimplementation, while the Senate is proposing the administrative rules thatgoverned the 2000-crop Crop Disaster Program (CDP) program.

      The major difference betweenthe two administrative models is primarily a difference in how payments areultimately calculated and benefits capped. The 2006 CDP included a 95 percentpayment cap on benefits and an overall $80,000 payment limitation. The 2000 CDPmodel that the Senate version is proposing does not have an arbitrary benefitcap and would allow growers to receive all calculated benefits up to an $80,000per person payment limitation.

      Considerable work still hasto be done before either of the two approaches is voted on and the process ofrolling the two versions into a single program can begin.

      The good news for growersthat lost crops during the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons is that help appearsto be on the way even if its final form is still unclear.

 

NCC SAYS PROPOSED WTO COTTON SESSION
PRIOR TO CONCLUSIONOF BRAZIL CHALLENGE UNFAIR

Friday, February 23, 2007                          By Shawn Wade

      National Cotton Councilleaders say WTO Director General Pascal Lamy's recently announced scheduling ofa "high profile session" to discuss cotton issues on March 15-16 couldinfluence the outcome of the Brazil-United States Cotton Compliance Dispute.

      The NCC has asked the U.S.Trade Representative's office to voice its concerns about the proposed cottonsession and its potential to adversely impact the outcome of the currentBrazil-United States Cotton Compliance Dispute.

      In comments provided February22, NCC spokesmen noted that the proposed session would come right on the heelsof the oral arguments in the Cotton Compliance Dispute, which are scheduled fornext week, and could unfairly influence the deliberations of the CompliancePanel.

      Noting that U.S. cottonproducers and the U.S. cotton program are already being unfairly targetedwithin the framework of the stalled Doha round of negotiations by Oxfam, andother non-governmental organizations, as well as several African countries, theNCC said that the publicity accompanying a dedicated cotton session outside ofthe broader framework of the agricultural negotiations would exacerbate theinequitable treatment of U.S. cotton within the WTO.

      The NCC said that even thoughsignificant changes have been made in the U.S. cotton program as mandated bythe WTO Dispute Panel findings in the initial Brazil Cotton Case, the worldprice for cotton has remained essentially static.

      To fully address the plightof African cotton farmers the NCC renewed its assertion that the WTO must committo addressing the true causes of world cotton price suppression instead oftargeting the U.S. cotton program.

      The NCC pointed to issuessuch as competition from man-made fibers, monopolistic state trading entitiesthat keep African producers from direct participation in the world market, theinability to create a viable domestic spinning and textile complex in theAfrican region and the readiness of cotton producers in China, India and Brazilto fill any shortfall that might come about from reduced U.S. cotton productionas much more contributory to the current cotton price situation.

 

 

2007 HIGH PLAINS PRODUCTION
CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

 

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.

March 5

Hereford Cotton Conference

 

For more information contact Rick Auckerman, Deaf Smith CEA-AG at 806-364-3573.