PCG Board Votes to Recommend

Changes to Water District Rules

Friday, January 13, 2012              By Mary Jane Buerkle

      The Plains Cotton Growers Board of Directors voted unanimously at their regular quarterly meeting on Wednesday to submit requests for information and recommendations for changes to Rule 5 as included in the Rules of the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1.

      The recommendations included suggestions on allowing permanent alternative metering systems, governance related to the size of the HPWD board and the activation of county advisory committees, and exceptions to the contiguous land rules. The PCG board also requested a moratorium on the implementation of Rule 5 for 2012 or until the current rules are revised.

      Rule 5, which was approved in July 2011, has come under increased scrutiny in recent months as producers have raised concerns about the potential scope and economic impact of the new regulations, which went into effect January 1. The HPWD board approved the rules in order to meet their 50/50 Desired Future Condition for underground water resources within the HPWD service area.

      Kirby Lewis and J.O. Dawdy with the Protect Water Rights Coalition addressed the PCG Board, as did HPWD Manager Jim Conkwright and HPWD Board President Robert Meyer. Deliberations stretched for two hours as board members carefully considered all aspects of the issue.

      "Although issues like this don't come up very often, this was a prime example of how producer-driven organizations like Plains Cotton Growers are designed to operate," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said, noting that each PCG member gin has the opportunity to place one producer on the PCG Board.

      "We're here to work on behalf of our producers, and it's important that we hear directly from them so we can meet their needs," Verett said. "Our member gins put a lot of trust in these board members to effectively represent them, and we rely on our board to direct PCG's efforts in matters such as this."

      In addition to the recommendations, PCG President Brad Heffington announced that he would appoint a committee to monitor and recommend additional changes to the HPWD rules, forming an open line of communication between the two boards. The committee will consist of PCG board members operating in the counties represented by the HPWD.

      "Our goal is to get our board and the water district's board and staff to exchanging information and ideas to ensure that these rules are as fair and equitable as possible to all of our producers," Heffington said. "We want to work with the water district to create workable solutions to ensure the future of our water resources for generations to come without forcing economic hardships on our irrigated agriculture today."


January Crop Report Lowers

High Plains Production Estimate

Friday, January 13, 2012              By Mary Jane Buerkle

      The January crop report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service revealed yet another drop in upland cotton production figures for the Texas High Plains.

      NASS estimates that Districts 1-N and 1-S will produce 1.88 million bales, down from 1.93 million in their December report. Expected statewide production dropped from 3.7 million bales to 3.5 million bales.

      Yield per acre estimates decreased for the northern half of the Plains Cotton Growers service area, from 583 pounds/acre to 569. However, that number increased for the southern half, from 460 pounds/acre to 485, primarily because of harvested acreage being adjusted between the two reports. The report states that 1.74 million acres of the 4.61 million planted in the area in 2011 are expected to be harvested, down from the December report of 1.84 million acres. As a result of the changes, acreage abandonment on the High Plains now is estimated at 63 percent for 2011.

      Although cotton acreage is predicted to decrease nationwide for 2012, thanks in part to competitive prices with other commodities, the Texas High Plains is not expected to see much of an adjustment. In fact, some say that the northern areas of PCG service area could see a significant increase in cotton acreage as producers shift from more water-intensive crops, especially if moisture is lacking over the next few months.


Area Ag Conferences Scheduled

The following area ag conferences have been scheduled for January and early February:

January 16 - Cotton Conference, Perryton Expo. Contact Scott Strawn, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-435-4501.

January 16 Cotton Meeting, Spearman Contact Burton Williams, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-659-4130.

January 17 Cotton Meeting, White Deer Community Center Contact Jody Bradford, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-537-3882.

January 17 Cotton Meeting, Wheeler Contact Kenneth Brdecko, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-826-5243.

January 19 (morning) Seed Variety Selection & Cotton Economics, Brownfield Contact Chris Bishop, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-637-4060.

January 19 (afternoon) 2012 Cotton Variety Selection and Future Outlook, Plains Contact J.W. Wagner, County Extension Agent AG, 806-456-2263.

January 20 Seed Variety Selection & Profitability Workshop, Morton Contact Jeff Molloy, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-266-5215.

January 24 Caprock Crop Production Workshop, Unity Center, Muncy Contact Caitlin Jackson, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-675-2347.

January 24 - Cotton Cluster Meeting, Dumas Contact Marcel Fischbacher, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-935-2594.

January 25 Southern Mesa Ag Conference, Lamesa Contact Tommy Doederlein, Extension Agent-IPM, 806-872-3444.

January 26 Cotton/Irrigation Conference, Silverton Contact Nathan Carr, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-823-2522.

January 26 Llano Estacado Cotton Conference, Bailey County Coliseum, Muleshoe Contact Curtis Preston, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-272-4584.

January 26 Commercial Turf & Ornamental Workshop, Lubbock Contact Mark Brown, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-775-1680.

      February 6 Grain Sorghum Conference, Claude Contact Whitney White, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-226-3021.

      February 6 Seed Variety Selection and Economics, Farwell Community Center Contact Benji Henderson, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-481-3619.

      February 7 Cotton Conference, Hereford Contact Rick Auckerman, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-364-3573.

      February 8 SW Farm & Ranch Classic, Lubbock Memorial Civic Center - Contact Mark Brown, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-775-1680.

      February 9 South Plains Ag Conference, Brownfield Contact Chris Bishop, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-637-4060.

      February 9 Crop Producers Conference, Dalhart Consumers Coop Contact Michael Bragg, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-244-4434.

      February 10 Swisher/Hale County Ag Day, Plainview Contact David Graf, County Extension Agent-AG, 806-995-3726.

      If you have another conference to add to this list, please call PCG at (806) 792-4904 and ask for Mary Jane Buerkle.


EQIP Ranking Period Ends February 3

      Agricultural producers should be aware that the first ranking period cut-off date for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is February 3, 2012.  Producers interested in EQIP should submit applications to their local county NRCS offices so their applications can be considered during the first ranking period of 2012.

      EQIP one of the largest programs in the Farm Bill is a voluntary conservation cost-share program that promotes environmental quality and assists producers to meet local, state and federal regulations.

      EQIP is a continuous sign-up program that allows landowners or operators to apply for financial and technical assistance for the application of specific conservation practices; but the deadline for the first 2012 funding is February 3, 2012. Contracts are offered periodically depending on budgetary allocations. Applications made after the deadline will be considered in the next funding cycle. Higher priority will be given to those applications that address national, state and local priorities and provide higher cost efficiency.



      For more information, including eligibility requirements, producers should call their local USDA Service Center office.  Service center locations and program information can be found on the Texas NRCS website at http://www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.


USDA Extends Conservation Stewardship

Program Sign-Up to January 27

      The cut-off date for the current Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) ranking period has been extended to January 27, 2012, USDA-NRCS Chief Dave White announced earlier this week. Producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship are eligible for CSP payments.  

      CSP is offered in all 50 states, tribal lands and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups. Administered by NRCS, CSP provides many conservation benefits including improved water and soil quality, enhanced wildlife habitat and conservation activities that address the effects of climate change.

Producers are encouraged to apply for CSP throughout the year to be considered for current and future application ranking periods. Those who apply by January 27, 2012, may be eligible for current available funding. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and nonindustrial forestland.

      A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if CSP is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contracts obligations and potential payments. It is available from local NRCS offices or for download at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp.

      Learn more about CSP and other NRCS programs at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs.


Public Meetings Scheduled for Proposed

FSA Office Consolidations

      Four Farm Service Agency offices in the Plains Cotton Growers' service are targeted for proposed consolidation, according to a release from the USDA-FSA and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. This move is under USDA's plan to increase departmental efficiencies, the release stated.

      Public meetings are scheduled in the following PCG counties to explain the proposals and receive comment:

      Tuesday, January 24 Hutchinson County, 10 a.m., Stinnett Community Center, 800 Main; Roberts County, 3 p.m., Miami High School Auditorium, 100 Warrior Lane

      Wednesday, January 25 Andrews County, 10 a.m., Andrews Business and Technology Center, 201 NW Avenue D; Midland County, 3 p.m., Midland County Extension Building, 2445 E. Highway 80

      These are four of 15 counties statewide in which FSA offices are being considered for proposed consolidation. All public comments will be taken into full consideration prior to development or implementation of a final consolidation plan, according to FSA.