FARM BILL: HOUSE CONFEREES NAMED IN
ATTEMPT TO PUSH PROCESS TOWARD CONCLUSION

Friday, April 11, 2008                           By Shawn Wade

      Newly minted House Farm BillConferees met for a short time on April 10 to present opening statements andoffer a slimmed down Farm Bill proposal that House Agriculture CommitteeChairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) described as “a starting point” designedprimarily to jumpstart the negotiations.

      Sitting at the table when theConference Committee met was Lubbock Congressman Randy Neugebauer who said hewas pleased to have been given the opportunity to provide a voice for farmersand ranchers in his district.

      Only one week remains untilthe current farm bill funding extension expires on April 18. The narrow timeframe means there is no time to waste if significant progress is going to bemade.

      For farmers wondering ifthings were ever going to get moving, the meeting was viewed as evidenceCongress will at least try to work out remaining differences and complete thebill. Whether or not this late push ultimately proves to be enough impetus toactually get a final agreement is less than certain.

      In the days leading up to,and immediately after, expiration of the current farm bill extension on April18, Plains Cotton Growers and the Southwest Council of Agribusiness will bewell represented in Washington to reinforce support for the bill.

      The week of April 14 SWCABoard members Rickey Bearden, of Plains, and Dee Vaughan, of Dumas, and currentPCG Secretary Craig Heinrich of Lubbock will travel to the nation’s Capitol towork other SWCA members from across Texas to work on farm bill issues.

      The following week PCG VicePresident Brad Heffington and Executive Vice President Steve Verett travel toWashington with SWCA Board member Mark Williams, of Farwell, to participate inthe Commodity Futures Trading Commission forum to discuss recent commoditymarket disruptions and to also make any last minute contacts that may be neededto finalize passage of the farm bill. Bearden, Williams and Vaughan are alsomembers of the PCG Board of Directors.

      The unexpectedly dauntingchallenge of agreeing on a full $10 billion in spending offsets remains thebiggest hurdle for House and Senate leaders to overcome.

      A frustrating game ofsemantics and stubbornness has characterized the effort to find budget offsetsthat the White House, House of Representatives and Senate could agree on.

      An interesting twist thatwill either solve or exacerbate this situation was a 400-11 House vote toinstruct its conferees to vote against the use of “new” taxes to provide neededfunding over the baseline. The House instruction apparently does not prohibitthe use of loophole closers or changes to existing tax provisions that couldincrease revenue.

      Immediate reaction to the Houseproposal, which includes only $5.5 billion in extra spending, was greeted by aless than enthusiastic response from the Senate mainly because the Houseproposal did not include the $4 billion permanent ag disaster program or apackage of tax provisions developed by the Senate.

      The White House also pannedthe House proposal saying the provided funding offset was not acceptable to theAdministration.

      Senate Conferees are expectedto immediately go to work crafting a counter-offer that reflects the use of thefull $10 billion in additional funding previously agreed upon by House andSenate leaders.

      In an interview with Agweb’sJim Wiesemeyer, USDA Secretary Edward Schafer reinforced the BushAdministration’s position they would not accept a bill with additional fundingoffsets that did not include additional reforms as well.

      “We've made it clear thatincreased spending has got to come with reform,” said Schafer in response to aquestion about the House proposal. “It can't come from tax increases, it can'tcome from other things. It is hard to say if there's enough reform. But what Ican tell you is that we have not seen enough reform in any of the proposedlegislation that would make it acceptable to the administration.”

      The threat of a veto doesn’tseem to be the primary concern of either House Ag Chairman Peterson or SenateAg Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA).

      Conference leaders areappropriately focused on completing their work and putting together a bill thatcan pass the Congress says PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett.

      “The underlying billrepresents hundreds of hours of work and includes a multitude of reforms thathave been repeatedly recognized by the people’s representatives in Congress,”said Verett. “We will continue to work with Congress to finalize this importantlegislation in the limited time we have left before current authority runs outnext week.”

      “Afterthat,” concludes Verett, “it will be up to the Administration to decide if itwill recognize and support the bipartisan efforts of the Congress or not.”

UPLAND COTTON AVERAGE PRICE RECEIVED BY
GROWERS THROUGHFEBRUARY 2008

(Weighted by Marketings)

 

Marketings

Prices

 

(000's of Running bales)

(cents/Lb.)

 

Monthly

Cum.

Monthly

Weighted

August

1,762

1,762

44.90

44.90

September

373

2,135

52.00

46.14

October

949

3,084

55.20

48.93

November

1,464

4,548

57.00

51.53

December

1,529

6,077

59.20

53.46

January

1,839

7,916

60.70

55.14

February

1.339

9,315

61.90

56.16

March

n/a

n/a

61.40*

n/a

Source:National Agricultural Statistics Service; * = preliminary

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