SubcommitteeMark-up Yields Commodity
Title Extension With Few Revisions

Friday, June 22, 2007                                By Shawn Wade

      Textof proposed changes to the Commodity Title released prior to the General FarmCommodities and Risk Management Subcommittee mark-up session on June 19 wasunanimously set aside by that Committee in favor of a recommendation to extendprovisions of the 2002 Farm Bill.

      Findingsupport for the changes proposed in the initial Chairman's mark ultimately provedimpossible. The end result was the Committee's unanimous recommendation toextend provisions of the current Commodity Title.

      TheCommittee completed its work by adopting several commodity specific amendments,including the cotton industry's recommended changes to the cotton marketingloan program.

      Therevised Commodity Title package will now be considered by the full HouseAgriculture Committee sometime in July. HAC Chairman Collin Peterson says hestill plans to have a final bill on the House floor for debate before Congressleaves for the month-long August recess.

      Theinitial Title I proposal would have reduced cotton support levelsdisproportionately compared to the proposals for other crops. To prevent thatfrom moving forward, Plains Cotton Growers leadership joined the NationalCotton Council and other industry supporters to work with Cotton State membersof the Committee to approve an extension of current programs in place of theoriginal Chairman's mark.

      Thecotton industry's rapid response to the initial proposal was well received bymembers of the Committee and played a significant role in the final outcome.

      PCGExecutive Vice President Steve Verett was quick to praise the important work oftwo West Texas members of the Committee during Wednesday's mark-up session.Verett noted that together, Rep. Randy Neugebauer and Rep. Mike Conaway provedparticularly effective in steering the process to its ultimate conclusion.

      Neugebauernoted his disappointment with the proposed changes to the cotton programimmediately after it was released and subsequently expressed his opinion thatthe original Title I draft ultimately would have moved agriculture too far fromthe successful policies of the 2002 Farm Bill.

      "Becausethe current Farm Bill has worked so well for producers while coming in billionsof dollars under budget, I want to thank Chairman Etheridge and my colleagueson the Subcommittee for their cooperation in working to keeping these goodpolicies in place and forwarding them to the full Committee," concludedNeugebauer.

      Inaddition to working with his Subcommittee colleagues to substitute currentCommodity Title provisions in place of the initial proposal, Neugebauer alsosuccessfully gained approval of his proposal to reform the crop insuranceprogram to allow farmers to buy a portion of a GRP policy in addition to theirbase APH yield or revenue policy.

      Neugebauer'sproposal combines two existing risk management tools - Actual ProductionHistory (APH) based products that provide individual yield and/or revenueprotection and the Group Risk Plan (GRP) policy that does not provideindividual coverage, but triggers support when county average yield falls belowa specified level.

      Neugebauer'ssays his combination approach would function like a disaster policy, givingfarmers more protection when there is a countywide loss situation.

      RepresentativeMike Conaway of Midland was also right in the thick of the action during theCommittee mark-up session, questioning several aspects of the initial proposal.

      Conawaysaid that the initial proposal wrongly isolated cotton by proposing significantdecreases to the crop's loan rate and target price while proposals for othercrops were for little or no adjustments or in other cases significantincreases.

      "Ihave previously stated that any attempt to isolate one commodity isunacceptable," said Conway. "The original comments were directed at the ongoingWTO negotiations but the same holds true for the United States Congress and theHouse Committee on Agriculture. Cotton should not be unfairly singled out andmade a poster child for 'reform'."

      Carryingforward his support of extending the provisions of the current law, Conawayalso issued a strongly worded response to the unflattering characterization ofthe Committee's decision issued by USDA Secretary Mike Johanns.

      Inhis statement Conaway said, "After reviewing the comments made by SecretaryJohanns yesterday it is increasingly evident to me that the Secretary and theUSDA have little or no interest in actually working with the House AgricultureCommittee. Comments such as the ones the Secretary directed at the Committee insuch a public arena do nothing to assist in the process and, in my opinion,hamper credibility."

      Conawayalso noted that there is a significant difference between politeness andapproval in regard to the Subcommittee's treatment of the Administration'sproposals. Conaway summed up the Committee's evaluation of those proposals bysaying, "I want to remind the Secretary that the Committee did discuss theUSDA's proposal regarding Title I, and the subcommittee unanimously disapprovedsuch an approach."

     Verettadded that West Texas farmers are resting easier thanks to the unwaveringsupport of Rep. Neugebauer and Rep. Conaway and their obvious interest in seeingthe continuation of the basic program provisions that are providingcost-effective and predictable safety net agriculture in West Texas.

      Wrappingup the events of the previous week, Verett said despite the fact that there isstill a lot of work to do, this week's events point to the fact thatagriculture as a whole continues to firmly support the provisions of the 2002Farm Bill

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