3 Down, 10 To Go In Farm Bill Conference;
Congress Approves 7-day Funding Extension

Friday, April 18, 2008                                 By Shawn Wade

      Congress has approved a oneweek extension of the 2002 Farm Bill to maintain continuity in key nutritionand non-commodity support programs as they work to overcome the last fewobstacles standing in the way of completing a new farm bill.

      President Bush is expected tosign the extension, which extends funding authority for certain programsthrough April 25, based on a statement issued by the White House early Friday.White House agreement on the extension comes despite the fact that USDAofficials clearly stated Thursday that they would advise the President not tosign an extension unless Congress could show “significant” progress on the newfarm bill.

      Senate Agriculture CommitteeChairman Tom Harkin, who is also heading up the farm bill Conference Committee,had countered the USDA assessment of no progress by noting that significantadvances had been made on both financial and legislative aspects of the bill.

      With only three of thethirteen total farm bill titles closed by conferees as of Thursday afternoonand, as yet, no final agreement on the financing package, it is unclear whatthe President will ultimately do.

      Within the conference themajor issue holding up completion of the bill continues to be budget “pay-fors”needed to fund the new non-commodity title program additions.

      The search for acceptablebudget offsets has resulted in numerous meetings between House Ways and MeansCommittee Chairman Charlie Rangel and Senate Finance Committee Chairman MaxBaucus that have yet to result in an announcement that a deal has been struck.While it appears these negotiations remain locked in a virtual stalemate,Senator Baucus and Senator Harkin have both indicated that progress is beingmade and a deal will be worked out.

      The goal that Rep. Rangel andSenator Baucus are trying to reach is some $10 billion in new money to supportkey farm bill investments and, whether or not to find offsets for all or partof an additional $2.5 billion in controversial agriculture tax breaks proposedby the Senate. All together that means as much an additional $12.5 billion infunding would be needed to fund everything that is currently considered to “in-play”by one side or the other.

      So far House leaders haveresisted the Senate tax provisions, but have stopped short of breaking off alldiscussion of the issue. The bipartisan effort by Senate leaders has kept theissue alive as they push hard to maintain the provisions

      Heading up the Senatearguments for including the provisions is that they say that many of the taxchanges have been either needed or promised for some time and the farm billappears to be an appropriate vehicle for them to be addressed.

      Second, and perhaps mostimportant to Senate leaders, is the belief that many of the changes will infact attract additional support for the farm bill in the Senate.

      They contend this could bethe difference between just getting the bill passed and or passing it by aveto-proof margin. House leaders have argued just the opposite saying thatadding all of the tax provisions to the farm bill could actually cost the billsome support and make it more difficult to overcome a possible Bush veto.

      Regardless of any latebreaking news that might emerge before midnight April 18 a final farm billagreement will not be finished this week, hence the request by Congress for theone-week extension to allow the Conference Committee additional time to completeits work and reach a final agreement.

      Accordingto House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, April 25 extensionwould not be the last one Congress will ask for. Peterson notes that once theconference committee completes its work an additional extension of one-twoweeks would still be needed to give Congressional staff time to draw up finallegislative text, get the farm bill passed through both the House and Senate,and get a final bill to the President.

PCG Board Elects 08-09 Officers/Exec. Comm.

Friday, April 18, 2008                                 By Shawn Wade

      Kress, Texas cotton producerBarry Evans has been elected President of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. for the2008-2009 growing season. Evans election occurred during the organization’squarterly Board of Directors meeting held April 4 in Lubbock.

      Littlefield, Texas cottonproducer Brad Heffington was elected to serve as the organization’s VicePresident and Slaton-area cotton producer Craig Heinrich was electedSecretary-Treasurer of the 41-county cotton producer organization.

      Heinrich, who has served onthe PCG Executive Committee for several years, joins Evans and Heffington inthe PCG Officer rotation. Each of these gentlemen is eligible to serve twoconsecutive one-year terms in their current positions.

      In other business conductedApril 4 the PCG Board selected members to serve on the organization’s 2008-2009Executive Committee. Each year the PCG Board elects atotal of nine directors, three from each of the organization’s threesub-regions, to serve alongside the organization’s three elected officers andtwo most recent past presidents.

      Membersof the 2008-2009 PCG Executive Committee are: District 1 representatives -Johnie Reed of Kress, James Brown of Muleshoe and Dan B. Smith of Lockney; District2 representatives – Stacy Smith of Wilson, Scott Harmon of Idalou, andDavid Carter of Levelland; District 3 representatives - Wesley Butchee ofSeagraves, Al Spinks of Midland and Shawn Holladay of Lamesa; President BarryEvans of Kress, Vice President Brad Heffington of Littlefield,Secretary-Treasurer Craig Heinrich of Slaton, Chairman Mike Hughes of Lamesa,and past president Rickey Bearden of Plains.

 

Wantthe facts about the U.S. farm policy. Get what you need at:

www.farmpolicyfacts.com

 

Final 2007-crop Quality Reports Published

Friday, April 18, 2008                           By Carmon McCain

      Takinga look at the final reports from the Lubbock and Lamesa, Texas USDA CottonClassing offices illustrates just how impressive the 2007 crop is from aquality standpoint.

      Havingclassed just over 5.37 million running bales, the Lubbock and Lamesa officesmaintained an average color grade of 21 or better on 80-plus percent of thecotton they evaluated.

      AverageMicronaire readings were 4.0 in Lubbock and 4.18 at Lamesa with less that 12percent of the crop falling into the discount Micronaire range below 3.4.

      Strengthmeasurements for the season settled above 29.5 grams per tex at both officesmaking it the strongest crop ever produced on the High Plains.

      Favorableharvest weather was one of the most important ingredients to the 2007 crop’sability to achieve record or near-record quality measurements in every qualitycategory.

      Outsideof the Color grades, the best measure of the positive impact from good weatherare the generally low leaf grades and the small portion of the crop thatreceived discounts for bark or other extraneous matter.

      Overall,Leaf grades at both offices averaged between 2.4-2.5. When it comes toextraneous matter, 10 percent of the 1,564,299 bales classed at Lamesa weredowngraded for bark, while only 3.8 percent of the 3,808,689 bales classed atLubbock received a bark discount.

2007-CROP HIGH PLAINS COTTON QUALITY SUMMARY

 

FINAL REPORT

 

Office

Bales

Color

Leaf

Staple

Lamesa

1,564,299

21+

2.46

35.96

Lubbock

3,808,689

21+

2.50

36.00

 

Mike

Strength

Uniformity

Bark

Lamesa

4.18

29.61

80.76

10.1%

Lubbock

4.05

29.53

80.61

3.8%

Source: USDA AMS Cotton Division

 

HPUWCD No. 1 Releases Annual Depth-to-Water
Measurements; Records 0.2 ft. Decline

Friday, April 18, 2008                           By Carmon McCain

     Annual depth to water levelmeasurements made in early 2008 by the High Plains Underground WaterConservation District No. 1 in Lubbock show an average decrease of -0.20 of afoot in the groundwater levels of the Ogallala aquifer during 2007 within thedistrict’s 6.8 million acre service area. In comparison, the 2007depth-to-water level measurements previously indicated an average decrease of-0.91 of a foot during 2006.

      The district’s 10-yearaverage annual change increased from -0.76 of a foot for the 2006 report to-0.82 of a foot for the current report. The district five-year average annualchange decreased from -0.61 of a foot for the 2006 report to -0.46 of a footfor the current report.

      An average annual increase ingroundwater levels was recorded in the portions of Armstrong, Crosby, and FloydCounties within the district, as well as Hockley, Lubbock, and Lynn Counties. The water level increases ranged from 0.33 of a foot in the portion of CrosbyCounty within the district to 1.62 feet in Lynn County.

      Depth-to-water levelmeasurements indicated an average annual decline of more than 1.9 feet inCastro and Parmer Counties.

      The remaining seven countieswithin the High Plains Water District had average annual changes in groundwaterlevels of less than one foot. These ranged from -0.04 of a foot in the portionof Potter County within the district to -0.97 of a foot in Lamb County.

      Several factors, includingtimely rainfall, awareness of the benefits of water conservation practices, andincreased pumping costs, may have contributed to the lessened average annualchange in groundwater levels from 2007 to 2008 within the district.

     High Plains Water Districtofficials caution that the average annual change in groundwater levels maysignificantly increase from 2008 to 2009 if the region receives below-averagerainfall during the year. Also, increased commodity prices may result inincreased crop production, which in turn, may cause additional groundwaterpumpage to supplement crop water demands.

      Depth-to-water levelmeasurements are normally made from January to March each year to allowstabilization of water levels in the aquifer following pumpage during theprevious year of groundwater production.

      The measurements are made ina network of more than 1,200 privately owned water wells within the districtarea. The wells are at a density of one well per nine square miles and arepart of the State Observation Well network administered by the Texas WaterDevelopment Board in Austin.

      The current issue of the HighPlains Water District’s newsletter, The Cross Section, features the results ofthe annual 2008 depth-to-water level measurements. It contains individualcounty maps, which provide the approximate location of each well in thedistrict’s observation well network. Each map is accompanied by available 1998,2003, 2007, and 2008 depth-to-water level measurements for individual wells inthat county. Also listed are available total changes in water levels in feetfor each observation well for the periods 1998 to 2008, 2003 to 2008, and 2007to 2008.

      Historically speaking,depth-to-water level measurements have presented a district average decline of-2.15 feet in 1998; an average decline of –0.68 of a foot in 1999; anaverage decline of -1.14 feet in 2000; an average decline of -0.78 of a foot in2001; an average decline of -1.06 feet in 2002; an average decline of -1.34feet in 2003; an average increase of +0.74 of a foot in 2004; an averagedecline of -0.54 of a foot in 2005; and an average decline of -0.91 of a footin 2006.

      Additional information aboutthe annual depth-to-water level measurement program is available by contactingthe High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 at (806) 762-0181or by visiting the water district’s web site at www.hpwd.com