U.S. House Passes Ag Appropriations Bill

Lubbock, June 17, 2011          By Mary Jane Buerkle

      After two days of debate, The U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2112, the FY12 agricultural appropriations bill, by a vote of 217-203 on Thursday.

      However, the House rejected three key amendments in the bill that could negatively affect the cotton industry. An amendment proposed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) imposing a $125,000 payment limit on the Farm Bill failed 154-262; and two amendments proposed by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one to lower the AGI for producers and another to eliminate funding for the USDA's Market Access Program failed 186-228 and 101-314, respectively.

      One amendment that did pass was an amendment by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Flake to cease transferring funds to the Brazilian Cotton Institute, which was part of a settlement last year by the U.S. and Brazilian governments. Although the Brazilian government had the right to place prohibitively high tariffs on U.S. exports, they agreed to withhold implementation of those tariffs under the agreement.

      National Cotton Council Chairman Charles Parker said this move "places the United States in violation of the agreement, undermines the good work of U.S. officials and exposes a broad range of U.S. sectors to harmful trade retaliatory measures by Brazil on up to $800 million in U.S. exports," in a news release from the NCC.

      In a news release, General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) said that he is concerned that the move could "incite a retaliatory trade war" between the two countries.

      "That is and has been one of my main arguments against attempts to craft farm policy through amendments on inappropriate legislative vehicles on the House floor," he said. "This is how serious mistakes are made, and one was committed today. I have received assurance from Republican Leadership that we will continue to work on reconciling this issue as the legislation moves forward."

      Plains Cotton Growers and numerous other organizations had teamed up to call for the defeat of any and all amendments that could open up the Farm Bill or federal crop insurance. In addition to Rep. Conaway, some key legislators included House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and, Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX),and Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Austin Scott (R-GA), just to name a few. We appreciate the efforts of all of these legislators as we work together to ensure the viability of U.S. farm policy.

      "We understand the need for fiscal responsibility in the overall budget," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "All we ask is that all programs are discussed at the same level as these farm programs, which comprise such a small percentage of the budget."


USDA Risk Management Agency

Responds to PCG Request

Lubbock, June 17, 2011                  By Shawn Wade

      In a year of unprecedented drought, cotton producers on the High Plains will have one less thing to worry about following the USDA Risk Management Agency's issuance of Manager's Bulletin MGR-11-007. The bulletin clarifies a number of issues related to small grains and the insurability of non-irrigated cotton and recognizes the extraordinary situation that drought has created in the Texas and Oklahoma cotton production areas.

      In a letter to RMA dated May 26, 2011, Lubbock-based Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., asked the Agency to provide direction to Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) where termination of a small grain crop planted as a cover crop or volunteer small grain plants was ineffective or incomplete due to drought conditions.

      The untimely combination of drought, which hampered termination efforts, and implementation of a new limit on the amount of heading allowed before insurance could be denied, contributed to the problem.

      PCG argued that denial of insurance on dryland cotton intended for management in a conservation tillage practice or following a previous year's wheat rotation due to the presence of heads on a limited number of small grain plants would be inappropriate when growers had put forth every effort to terminate the small grain plants.

      "We appreciate RMA's prompt attention to and clarification of this matter," Steve Verett, Plains Cotton Growers' Executive Vice President, said Wednesday. "Our producers are having to deal with some extremely tough conditions this year, and this will ease some of their concerns."

      The bulletin from RMA (MGR-11-007) recognizes that because of the drought, there could be small portions of a cover crop that could have produced a seed head, but if the producer did everything they could to terminate the cover crop before it reached that point and followed all other guidelines, subsequent crops such as non-irrigated cotton can be insured. This clarification applies also to producers who made appropriate efforts to terminate volunteer wheat.

      Plains Cotton Growers worked diligently with the RMA, USDA, the House Agriculture Committee, and other interested organizations and agencies to resolve these issues. PCG and four members of the U.S. Congress submitted letters to the RMA. Those letters and a copy of RMA Manager's Bulletin MGR-11-007 are available on PCG's website at http://www.plainscotton.org.



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USDA-AMS Announces Move to Instrument Leaf Grade for Cotton Grading

      The United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service recently announced that the AMS Cotton and Tobacco Programs will move to the Instrument Leaf Grade on July 1 for all types of cotton grading, according to a letter to the U.S. Cotton Industry from Darryl Earnest, Deputy Administrator for AMS Cotton and Tobacco Programs.

      The instrument leaf grade will be determined by an equation that utilizes instrument readings made by the HVI trash meter for percent area and particle count. Percent area is a two-digit reading of the percentage of the sample surface covered by trash. Particle count is the actual number of trash particles observed in the same nine square inches of view by the trash meter. The instrument leaf equation will make the grade determination based on the Universal Standards for American Upland Cotton and American Pima Standards for Pima cotton. Extraneous matter will continue to be determined by a manual classer.

      Earnest said USDA-AMS feels that the movement to instrument leaf grade will be at least as accurate as the current manual classing system, and that the new methodology has been studied extensively and proves to be reliable.


NRCS to Host Local Work Group Meetings

      The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts will host Local Work Group meetings in June. The purpose of the public meetings is to receive input from farmers, ranchers, local agencies, organizations, local agricultural leaders, businesses, and other individuals that have an interest in natural resource concerns.

      Area meetings coming up in the next two weeks are as follows:

      June 21 Miami, KNT Caf, 123 Commercial St. (Highway 60), 7:30 a.m.

      June 21 Muleshoe, Five Area Telephone, 302 Uvalde, 8:30 a.m.

      June 21 Claude, Armstrong County Activity Building, Highway 207 South, 9:30 a.m.

      June 21 Clarendon, RFO Building, Clarendon College, 1322 W. Second St., 2 p.m.

      June 21 Seminole, USDA Service Center, 1301 S. Main, 2:30 p.m.

      June 27 Roby, USDA Service Center, 601 W. South First St., 1:15 p.m.

      June 28 Levelland, Chase Bank, 800 Eighth St., 8 a.m.

      June 30 Vega, Vega Banking Center, 101 Main, 9 a.m.

      For more information, contact the local USDA-NRCS office in your county, listed under USDA in the Yellow Pages, or access the information on the Texas NRCS website at http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.




Save the Date!

Southwest Council of Agribusiness

Annual Meeting July 21-22, 2011

Overton Hotel & Conference Center, Lubbock

More information coming soon!


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