Friday,May 16, 2008                                  By Shawn Wade

      Thetopsy-turvy nature of the 2008 Farm Bill debate means nobody is taking anythingfor granted when it comes to making sure this bill becomes law.

      Eventhough Congress essentially rendered the threat of a Presidential veto moot byoverwhelmingly approving the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 byveto-proof margins, officials at Plains Cotton Growers say it is now time tofinish the job with a veto override.

      Tolist all of the people that helped make the 2008 Farm Bill a reality would takefar too much space, but Plains Cotton Growers notes that High PlainsCongressmen Randy Neugebauer and Mike Conaway have each played vital roles inthe process to date and have pledged to keep working until the bill officiallybecomes law.

      BothRep. Neugebauer and Rep. Conaway have been intimately involved in the processto develop and pass the 2008 Farm Bill as members of the House Committee onAgriculture. Their leadership and tireless efforts to represent the interestsof the farmers and ranchers in their districts is much appreciated by growerswho are eager to see the promised Presidential veto overridden next week.

      Inthe final hours of the process leading up to this week’s House vote on thefinal Conference Report, Neugebauer and Conaway, and members of their staff,played key roles in insuring the bill passed by a veto-proof margin. In the endall but seven of the 32 members of the Texas delegation in the House ofRepresentatives voted for the bill, which is vital to the second largestcomponent of the Texas economy.

      Theonly Texas Congressmen to vote against the bill were Republicans: Rep. MichaelBurgess; Rep. John Culberson; Rep. Kay Granger; Rep. Jeb Hensarling; Rep. PeteSessions; Rep. Sam Johnson; and, Rep. Ron Paul.

      Despitehoping the strong bipartisan support the bill received would be enough todissuade the White House, Congressional leaders fully expect President GeorgeBush to veto the bill when he receives it early next week.

      Congresshas already begun laying the groundwork to override the President’s veto andexpects to do so before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess on May 23.

      Immediatelyfollowing the 318-106 vote to pass the bill on Wednesday afternoon, Houseleaders approved what should be the sixth and final extension of the currentlaw through May 23, giving plenty of time to override the President’s veto.

      Senateleaders followed essentially the same course, except they passed the fundingextension on Wednesday night, before the final vote on the bill Thursdaymorning.

      TheSenate vote on the Conference Report, which totaled 81 “For” to 15 “Against,”easily cleared the two-thirds margin needed to override a Presidential veto.

      TexasSenators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn voted to approve the Farm BillConference report.

      Withno indication that President Bush will back away from his threat, despiteveto-proof support in Congress, the next and final step in the process will beto override his veto. Congressional leaders expect the bill to arrive on thePresident’s desk no later than Tuesday, May 20 and to override his veto beforethey leave on the 23rd.

      MostCongressional leaders are assuming quick and decisive action by the Presidentmainly because he has been very vocal about his position and also because theextension Congress approved, and which the President has said he will sign uponhis return from the Middle East, expires May 23.

      Immediatelyfollowing the President’s veto, the bill will be returned to the House for thefirst override vote. The Senate will not get an opportunity to attempt its vetooverride vote until the House vote is successful.

      Oncethe veto hurdle is cleared the focus of Congress and agriculture groups willswitch to implementation of the bill and figuring out which parts will go intoeffect in 2008 and which will be delayed until subsequent crop years.

      Lookfor a more compete rundown of what is new and what is set to change over thenext few weeks as PCG officials switch their focus to implementing the newbill.

      “Despitebeing on the cusp of completing and passing a new 2008 farm bill, there isstill a lot of work to do to insure that the intent of Congress is carriedforward into the rules and regulations that will implement this new bill,”notes Steve Verett, PCG Executive Vice President. “The devil is always in thedetails and we will be working hard to insure the regulations developed by USDAcarry out the vision set forth by Congress and does not cause unintendedproblems for agricultural producers.”



Friday,May 16, 2008                                  By Shawn Wade

      Plantingrains have swept across much of the High Plains region over the past two weeksand significantly bolstered cotton prospects heading into the 2008 growingseason.

      Plantingprogress, however, is lagging somewhat due to wet field conditions and lessthan ideal temperatures. It is estimated that less than 15 percent of the area’s3.5 million or so cotton acres are currently planted. That means the next 3-4weeks will be critical as producers work to get their cotton planted.

      Cottongrowers in the northern part of the region have the shortest window forplanting cotton thanks to a final crop insurance planting date of May 31.Moving south, the final planting date for the middle section of the High Plainsis June 5. The region’s southern area has until June 10 to complete theirinitial planting activity. Only cotton planted on or before the final plantingdate is guaranteed full insurance coverage.

      Recentweather has also reminded growers that just about every storm that bringsbeneficial moisture can also bring damaging winds and hail that wreak havoc onyoung plants.

      Asthey approach their final planting date the main questions from producers dealwhat their options are, especially if conditions could keep them out of thefield and unable to complete planting or replanting activities before thatdate.

      Ifa young crop is damaged to the point that the stand is significantly impactedor unviable most growers will elect to replant, especially if there are still afew days remaining until the final planting date.

      Themost important rule for growers to keep in mind in this situation is that theyare required to inform their insurance provider that damage has occurred andrequest clearance to replant before destroying the initial crop stand. Failureto follow through with the notification and clearance process before replantinga damaged stand puts the grower at risk of losing all insurance coverage on theunit.

      Contraryto some reports, this is not a new requirement and has been on the books formany years. It has only been within the last 3-4 years, however, that this rulehas been actively enforced.

      Partof the misunderstanding about the requirement stems directly from the fact thatUSDA and insurance providers haven’t always strictly enforced it. That changeda few years ago with a renewed emphasis by the Risk Management Agency onreducing instances of program abuse.

      Inmost cases the process is as simple as making a phone call, keeping theirinsurer informed of what has happened and informing them about what they wouldlike to do next.

      Knowingthat these requests will be headed their way, insurance providers try to stayup to date on the circumstances that could prompt replant requests following aweather event and can usually quickly give a producer clearance to replantbased on their knowledge of the situation in the area or, if necessary, performa field inspection and allow a producer to begin replanting as soon as it ispractical to do so.

      Severalinsurance providers have taken additional steps to educate their growers aboutthe rule and to make sure they understand the ramifications of failing to keepup with this important program component.

      Communicationbetween insurance providers and their customers is key and growers areencouraged to keep their insurance provider in the loop throughout the growingseason.


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