Friday, May 21, 2010                                   By Shawn Wade

      Thanks to a week of near perfect weather, and some beneficial rainfall, cotton producers on the Texas High Plains have planted approximately 65 percent of the area's expected cotton acreage and still have another 10 days remaining in the critical month of May.

      With a 7-10 day forecast calling for daytime temperatures in the 85-90 degree range and a seasonal precipitation pattern that includes daily opportunities for scattered thunderstorms, it appears that the current planting effort has a good chance to maintain its momentum.

      If the coming week pans out, and the area avoids significant storms, producers should quickly get most of the remaining acres planted well ahead of normal planting deadlines.

      As it stands most of the region's irrigated acreage is planted and growers will hardly slow down as they switch over to non-irrigated fields that have sufficient moisture for planting.

      Such a favorable outlook is possible because of a promising subsoil moisture situation and only a few pockets of lingering dryness. With scattered storms in the forecast to possibly help fill in the dry spots, it is possible that 2010 cotton will get off to one of the area's best starts in recent memory.

      It is important to remember, however, that High Plains weather patterns and the ever-present threat of severe thunderstorms in the coming weeks, will keep everyone on the edge of their seat for quite some time.

      Getting a crop planted and off to a fast start is the first, and often most challenging, step in producing a cotton crop on the Texas High Plains.

      About the only thing we know about the 2010 crop so far is that it has a chance to get out of the blocks quickly. Mother Nature, balanced by the hard work of High Plains farmers over the next few weeks to get the crop established, will ultimately determine how good a start the region gets this year.



Friday, May 21, 2010                                   By Shawn Wade

      Leadership from Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. (PCG) and the Southwest Council of Agribusiness (SWCA) were center stage at the House Committee on Agriculture's (HAC) 2012 Farm Bill field hearing in Lubbock on May 17.

      A large turn-out from the agriculture and business community helped reinforce importance and diversity of High Plains agriculture to the HAC members present and further reinforced the central message of support for the tenets of current U.S. farm programs delivered by the hearing witnesses.

      PCG and SWCA leadership filled six of the 13 witness slots at the hearing. PCG Board of Directors members Brad Heffington, Dee Vaughan, Dan B. Smith and Ronnie Holt presented testimony on behalf of PCG (cotton), corn, grain sorghum and crop insurance interest groups, respectively. SWCA Board members Jimbo Grissom and Lowell (LG) Raun, Jr. presented testimony for Texas peanut and rice groups.

      "We are very fortunate to have an active and diverse group of farmer leaders serving on the Board of Plains Cotton growers and also the Southwest Council of Agribusiness," says PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett.

      He continued, "The fact that PCG Board members also serve in leadership capacities with the other major Texas commodity organizations strengthens the message that we, as producers, continue to support the safety net mechanisms contained in current U.S farm policy and are willing to work closely with the HAC in crafting a 2012 Farm Bill that carries those principles forward. The feedback we received from HAC members and staff after the hearing indicates that our comments were well received and appreciated."

      The Lubbock hearing was one of the best attended HAC 2012 Farm Bill field hearings to date with an estimated audience of 250-300 Lubbock area farmers, agriculture and business leaders.

      House Agriculture Committee Members attending the hearing included: Chairman Peterson; Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas; Congressman Travis Childers of Mississippi; Congressman Mike Rogers of Alabama; Congressman Randy Neugebauer of Texas who serves as the Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry; Congressman K. Michael Conaway of Texas who serves as the Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Rural Development, Biotechnology, Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture; Congressman Adrian Smith of Nebraska; and Congressman Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania.

      Written testimony provided by all of the witnesses at the Lubbock hearing is available on the Committee website at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/index.html. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Committee website at a later date.

      The Committee is also providing an opportunity for others to submit comments about the 2012 Farm Bill on its website:


      All comments received online by June 14, 2010 will be included in the Committee's Farm Bill field hearing record.



WASHINGTON, May 20, 2010 – USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess today reminded farmers and landowners that they have until Tuesday, June 1, 2010, to sign up for the 2010 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program and the Average Crop Revenue Election Program. More than 75 percent of an expected 1.7 million farms have already enrolled.

      "The deadline to sign up for the 2010 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program is quickly approaching," said Coppess. "Producers must be aware of these deadlines and take action. Farmers and landowners must enroll their eligible farms no later than June 1, 2010, to take advantage of these important programs."

      USDA calculates DCP payments using base acres and payment yields established for each farm. Farms with base acres are eligible for DCP. Eligible producers receive direct payments at rates established by the 2008 Food, Conservation and Energy Act.

      For 2010, eligible producers may receive an advance payment of 22 percent of the direct payment for each covered commodity and peanuts on the farm. USDA will issue advance direct payments as soon as practical after enrollment. Final direct payments will be issued in October 2010.

      Counter-cyclical payments vary depending on market prices and are issued only when the effective price for a commodity is below its target price (which takes into account the direct payment rate, market price and loan rate).

      ACRE provides a valuable risk-management tool for producers by offering a revenue-based alternative to the traditional counter-cyclical program. Producers may elect to participate in ACRE even if they have already received an advance DCP payment for 2010. Last year, over 130,000 farms chose to participate in ACRE.

      Numerous resources are available to help producers make informed decisions on program enrollment. FSA county office staff can answer many questions on program rules, application procedures and possible benefits.

      ACRE calculators and decision tools can be found on some land grant university websites and can assist with potential payment calculations. FSA also has launched an ACRE Web page with educational information, including an electronic program payment calculator, located at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dcp.

      Producers may complete and sign 2010 ACRE election forms and DCP and ACRE contracts at any USDA Service Center or they can enroll on the USDA website. On the website http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dcp – click on Access eDCP Services, producers can choose payment options, assign crop shares, sign and submit their contracts, and view and print submitted contract options from any computer with Internet access.