Friday,May 9, 2008 By Shawn Wade
FarmBill negotiators gathered in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington,DC Thursday afternoon to announce a final agreement on the oft-delayed 2008farm Bill.
Culminatinga process started nearly three years ago, the press conference provided aglimpse of the bipartisan support that will drive the legislation over thefinish line and to the desk of President George W. Bush by the end of nextweek.
Despitewhat appears to be considerable bipartisan support for the final bill, WhiteHouse spokesmen continue to indicate a strong likelihood that the Presidentwill veto the legislation when he receives it. That warning has prompted arenewed effort in Congress to assemble a veto-proof margin of support for thebill.
“Cottonproducers on the High Plains will be relieved to know that the finish line forthe farm bill is now within reach and that Congress plans to approve the FarmBill Conference Report next week,” says PCG Executive Vice President SteveVerett. “We can’t say that everything in the bill is like we envisioned itought to be, but that is a sentiment virtually every constituency impacted bythe legislation is feeling today.
“Wewill be actively encouraging our High Plains Congressmen and our Senators tovote for the final bill and to also work diligently to ensure the support oftheir urban counterparts.”
Verettnotes that agriculture is second only to the energy complex in economicimportance to the Texas economy and it is hard to imagine a compelling reasonfor any member of the Texas Congressional delegation to vote against the bill.
Thelegislation contains monumental investments and implements significant reformsin several key areas including nutrition, commodity support, conservation andspecialty crop provisions.
Amongthe most visible of the changes from cotton’s perspective is the inclusion of alaundry list of cotton program reforms, mostly in the marketing loan program,and significant reforms in the area of pay limits that will also impact cottonproducers.
Withany piece of legislation as far-reaching and complicated as the farm bill thedevil will be in the details, not all of which are known at this time. The onlyanalysis that you can make at this time is that there will be a mix of positiveand negative impacts on growers depending on their individual situation, cropmix and location.
Perhapsthe biggest changes will be in the area of payment limitations and AdjustedGross Income (AGI) eligibility requirements. Elimination of the 3-entitiy rulein favor of direct attribution of payments to individuals and modifications tospouse eligibility rules are bundled with a new and somewhat confusing mix ofAGI eligibility tests in the new bill.
Aswith all other aspects of the bill, Conference Report language and the finallegislative text will be the key to divining the intent of Congress. HouseAgriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson indicated during Thursdays’press conference that this information, along with final Congressional BudgetOffice scoring for the final provisions would be made available early nextweek.
Acomprehensive run-down of the pay limit, AGI and Commodity program changes willbe provided as soon as the final legislative language and conference report arepublished.
Friday,May 9, 2008 By Shawn Wade
Continuingtheir effort to relate cotton’s natural attributes to consumers in order toincrease demand for cotton, Cotton Incorporated has launched aconsumer-directed marketing campaign to maximize exposure of their recentlyintroduced “Natural” Seal of Cotton trademark.
Officiallycalled the "A Natural Part of Everyday Life" Mall Campaign, thecampaign aims to break through the clutter in sustainability marketing thatseems to confuse consumers. The concept is to deliver a sincere, relevantmessage utilizing the tagline, "A Natural Part of Everyday Life."
The campaign will be brought to life on large-scale mediums such as skybanners, elevator door art, floor graphics, etc. In addition, the chance towin an iPod will drive customers to TheFabricofOurLives.com
“Withthe average consumer visiting a mall 2.9 times a month, malls are an excellentvenue for this campaign,” states J. Berrye Worhsam, president & CEO, CottonIncorporated.
Oneof the central objectives of the branded campaign is to break through theclutter in sustainability marketing that seems to be confusing consumers.
“Deliveringa clear, relevant message using the tagline ‘A Natural Part of Everyday Life,’we think will help consumers remember cotton’s many attributes and in general,encourage them to choose cotton and cotton products when shopping,” addsWorsham.
Atotal of 85 malls (at least one in each of the 50 states) will host thecampaign in a rolling format from April through December. The campaign itselfwill be brought to life through large-scale mediums like sky banners, elevatordoor art and floor graphics. “We are also partnering with retailers who areproviding sales incentives and sweepstakes messaging that will drive consumersto TheFabricofOurLives.com to submitan entry in a drawing for an iPod,” concludes Worsham.
Togauge the success of the campaign, Cotton Incorporated will evaluateattendance, gift-with-purchase sales results and impression numbers as well asmonitor website visits in qualitative research.
Thecampaign was launched in April 2008, around Earth-week and will continuethrough December, visiting different malls at different times.
Tosee when the campaign will be in a mall in your area visit: www.cottonboard.org
Friday,May 9, 2008
Officialswith the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are urging farmersto consider USDA compliance and program eligibility before convertingConservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to cropland production.
“Morethan 1 million acres in Texas covered under CRP contracts will expire in thenext year and a half, and we could see a lot of land use changes, especially inthe Panhandle region,” said Don Gohmert, NRCS state conservationist for Texas. “Wewant landowners to understand options available to them and what they need todo to remain in compliance for USDA programs.”
Conservationcompliance, which began with the 1985 Farm Bill, is still in effect. Compliancemeans that farmers need to control erosion on highly erodible land, whichincludes CRP acres, in order to stay eligible for USDA program benefits, includingfarm loan programs, disaster assistance, commodity price supports, andconservation programs.
Accordingto NRCS, the most common ways farmers get out of compliance with USDA is byeliminating soil-conserving crops, such as forage species, and adding a tilledcrop, such as corn or cotton. When the farmer changes his soil cover frompermanent grass to annually-tilled crops, he/she should always considerconservation compliance when planning their rotations, in addition to commodityprices.
“Thelure of high crop prices may have landowners considering plowing up grasslandand planting it to a commodity crop,” Gohmert said. “Not only are therecompliance issues to consider, but landowners should also look at what is bestfor the land.”
Accordingto Lori Ziehr, NRCS state agronomist, much of the land enrolled in CRP wasclassified as highly erodible, meaning it is susceptible to wind and/or watererosion. “That soil has not changed over the years the land was in CRP,” shesaid. “If those acres are returned to cropland, landowners will need to takecertain measures to ensure those acres will not erode beyond a level that thesoil can tolerate.”
Forexample, Ziehr said that a certain percentage of the field may need to beplanted to high residue crops each year or that contour windstrips be left atcertain intervals to prevent erosion. In some cases, she said, fields mayalready have terraces that need to be maintained to remain in compliance andhelp lower the potential for erosion.
Beforea landowner takes any action at all, Ziehr encourages them to visit their localNRCS field office to find out what a compliance plan would entail and if thereare any financial cost-share programs to help off-set some of the conservationcosts. “A landowner has more options when his land is still in grass,” shesaid. “Grazing former CRP acres is another option to consider.”
CRPis a voluntary program through which farmers and ranchers to plant grasses andtrees on marginal cropland acres in exchange for rental payments. The USDA FarmService Agency administers CRP; NRCS provides technical assistance for theprogram.