Southwest Council of Agribusiness

Completes 2011 Annual Meeting

Lubbock, July 22, 2011                    by Mary Jane Buerkle

      The 2012 Farm Bill took center stage at this year's Southwest Council of Agribusiness Annual Meeting as producers, agribusiness and industry leaders convened yesterday and today to discuss the prospects and uncertainties that undoubtedly will accompany its creation.

      Meeting attendees were from all over Texas and several other states, including Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Minnesota. About 300 people attended yesterday's evening banquet, which featured commentary via video from House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer.

      Featured speaker was Phillip Hayes with Farm Policy Facts and The Hand That Feeds U.S., who discussed the success of those initiatives.

      Congressional and industry representatives joined three farm policy experts for a Farm Bill Roundtable earlier today. Those experts included Dr. Art Barnaby, professor at Kansas State University, who discussed crop insurance and modified Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE); Dr. Brad Lubben, associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who discussed the Average Crop Revenue Election program and modified ACRE; and Dr. Joe Outlaw, professor at Texas A&M University, who discussed the current marketing loan and direct and counter-cyclical payment programs.

      Those presentations were followed by commentary from about 20 panelists, including producers, Congressional staff members, and agribusiness and industry leaders. They then took questions from the audience of about 150 people.

      The message? Current farm policy has performed well over the past several years, and years like this – with such extreme conditions in so many parts of the country – amplify how important these programs are to ensuring the continued viability of agriculture in the United States.

      "Right now in Washington, D.C. our leaders are writing the policies that we will have to live with here in rural America for years to come," SWCA President Dee Vaughan of Dumas, Texas, said in a news release. "Strong farm policy is key to the success of our economy and ultimately, our nation's ability to provide its own supply of food and fiber. Now is the time for all of us to fully engage in that conversation."

      These discussions were extremely relevant and timely, since federal budget issues and ongoing negotiations on the U.S. debt ceiling in Washington could mean the start of the 2012 Farm Bill debate as early as this fall.

 

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High Plains Water District Board of Directors

Approve Rule Amendments

      The Board of Directors of the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 on July 19 approved rule amendments to implement the district's 50/50 management goal to have 50 percent of the saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer in 2010 available for use in 2060.

      State law requires that groundwater conservation districts adopt and enforce rules to implement and achieve their established management goals in order to maintain local control over groundwater management.

      In order to achieve the 50/50 goal, the rule amendments establish the first-ever production limit for groundwater pumpage by water users within the 16-county High Plains Water District service area.  This includes agriculture, municipalities, public water suppliers, and others.

      "These rules are a good start, but the High Plains Water District Board of Directors and staff are committed to the rules being a living document as we go forward. We know issues will arise that can be addressed through tweaks and adjustments," Board President Robert Meyer of Canyon and General Manager Jim Conkwright agreed.

      Beginning in 2012 and continuing through 2013, all persons owning or operating an existing, new, or pre-district well or well system pumping groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer must limit the total amount of production to 1.75 acre-feet (21 inches) per contiguous acre per year. The production limit drops to 1.5 acre-feet (18 inches) per contiguous acre per year during 2014-2015, and is lowered to 1.25 acre-feet (15 inches) per contiguous acre per year in 2016 and beyond.

      In addition, metering of groundwater and submission of annual production reports to the district will be required in the future.

      Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, all new water wells or well systems in the district are required to have a meter in place before pumping can occur.  Existing water wells or well systems may measure groundwater through an alternative measuring method from 2012 to 2016. These systems must be equipped with meters no later than Jan. 1, 2016.

      A list of approved meters and alternate measuring methods will be made available on the High Plains Water District web site on or about Sept. 1, 2011.

      Wells or well systems with fully functioning meters as of the date that the District's approved meter list is published are "grandfathered" and will remain so as long as the meter remains fully functional.

      Owners or operators of wells required to be metered must submit annual production reports to the High Plains Water District. The first annual production report is for production during calendar year 2012 and must be submitted to the district no later than March 1, 2013.

      The 4-0 vote to adopt the proposed rules was preceded by a public comment period in which agricultural producers and others spoke for and against adoption of the new rules.

      Precinct One District Director James Powell of Lubbock thanked those in attendance for their participation in the rulemaking process.

      "We may not all be right and we may not all be wrong.  But one thing is for certain—when the water is gone, none of us will be here.  We encourage you to stay engaged as the Water District continues the process to meet its 50/50 management goal.  I assure you there will be adjustments, as needed, along the way," he said.

      Created in 1951 by local residents and the State Legislature, the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 is charged with the responsibility of conserving, preserving, protecting, and preventing waste of groundwater within its 16-county service area.

 

Water, Pest Control Key Issues for

Producers, Survey Says

Lubbock, July 22, 2011                    by Mary Jane Buerkle

      Results of a recent Cotton Incorporated Producer Priority Survey yielded little surprise as to what are primary concerns for producers: water and pest control.

      The purpose of the survey, which was conducted from April 1 through June 3, was to gather producer input regarding cotton production so as to help direct research efforts. About half of the total acreage represented in the survey was from Texas.

      The survey divided producer responses into four regions across the Cotton Belt – Southeast, Mid-South, Southwest (which included Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico) and Far West.

      In the Southwest, "top-of-mind concerns" included water, pest control, market, input costs and weather, in that order. Pest control topped the list in the other three regions.

      The survey also examined key issues throughout the regions. The top five across the Cotton Belt were cotton input costs; herbicide-resistant weeds; variety selection; cotton's tolerance to heat and drought; and early weed control, in that order.

      Seventy-three percent of producers in the Southwest noted input costs as an issue, followed by variety selection and tolerance to heat and drought at 44 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

      Dr. Kater Hake, vice president, agricultural and environmental research at Cotton Incorporated, said that input cost reduction is a top priority in their research efforts for 2012, and that the survey results will help improve those efforts.

 

Farm Sector Urges Resolution of Budget Issues

      MEMPHIS, TN – The National Cotton Council joined 33 other organizations on a letter to President Obama and House and Senate leaders seeking prompt action on the debt ceiling/deficit reduction negotiations that does not require disproportionate cuts in agriculture and related programs.

      The agriculture and agribusiness organizations also emphasized the importance of allowing House/Senate agriculture committees' members determine where modifications and reductions are made because these Members have the expertise to best evaluate specific programs.

      The groups' letter stated that, "(A)griculture is prepared to take a proportionate share of budget cuts provided everything is on the table. Last year, agriculture absorbed a net $6 billion reduction, according to the Congressional Budget Office, thus making it clear we have and will do our part to help with spending and deficit control."

      Also urged was that consideration be given to providing sufficient resources to support policy that underpins the ability to produce food, fiber, feed and fuel -- the rural economy's lifeblood.

      "In this time of economic uncertainty and weather-related disasters, the farm bill provides safeguards for farmers and ranchers to consistently provide a safe and stable food supply," the organizations emphasized. "The farm bill also provides assistance for our nation's most vulnerable people, helps to conserve valuable natural resources, encourages the production of renewable energy, and aids in the economic development of rural communities.

      Agriculture is among the sectors that will continue to lead our economic recovery and ensure domestic and global food security. Reaching a rational, long-term agreement on a balanced package that addresses deficit reduction and the debt ceiling will help ensure our nation remains the leader of the global agricultural economy and will establish the certainty needed to write a strong and effective farm bill."

 

 

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