FARRM Act Awaits Floor Time in U.S. House

Friday, July 20, 2012   By Mary Jane Buerkle and Shawn Wade

The House Agriculture Committee passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act with a bipartisan 35-11 vote last week, but whether the bill actually makes it to the House floor for a vote remains to be seen.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said earlier this week that no timeline has been set to bring the bill to the floor, which prompted several fellow members of Congress to write a letter to Speaker Boehner requesting floor time to discuss the bill before district work periods begin August 6. Their ultimate goal is to have the 2012 Farm Bill passed before the expiration of current legislation on September 30.

"The message from our constituents and rural America is clear: we need a farm bill now," Members wrote in the letter. "We ask that you bring a farm bill up before the August District Work Period so that the House will have the opportunity to work its will. We ask that you make this legislation a priority of the House as it is critically important to rural and urban Americans alike."

Congressional Members from Texas signing the letter include U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Randy Neugebauer. A total of 62 Members from both sides of the aisle have signed the letter so far, and that number could increase.

The FARRM Act includes the crop insurance-based Stacked Income Protection Plan proposed by the NCC for cotton with a reference price of $0.6861 per pound, NCC proposed modifications to the cotton marketing loan program, and a number of important crop insurance provisions. As the bill moves forward, PCG Board members encourage the industry to maintain the reference price, making that among the top priorities when the House bill moves forward and eventually is conferenced with Senate language that excludes this important feature.

      "Maintaining a reference price is of critical importance to High Plains cotton producers," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "With production costs well above the level proposed in the House bill, our members know that it will do little more than stem the flow of red ink should prices drop below that level and stay for an extended time. Its importance lies in the fact that it would be the only mechanism a cotton producer will have to protect them against the whims of an unpredictable world market."

      If Congress does not pass new farm policy before September 30, the current bill could be extended, but that only would provide producers a short-term solution.

      "We need to get this legislation passed so our producers can begin implementing the new policy into their future operational plans," Verett said. "Not only that, but the entire agricultural industry is depending on Congress to pass a bill that will protect the production of food and fiber across the nation so we can keep feeding and clothing the world, even in these tough economic times."


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High Plains Cotton Progression, Condition

Varies; Mid-Season Crop Checkup Scheduled

Friday, July 20, 2012                     By Mary Jane Buerkle

      "Mixed bag" may seem like a clichˇ statement, but it truly is the best way to describe the current progress and condition of the High Plains cotton crop as of this week.

      In some areas, cotton is barely squaring while other fields have plants that are stacking up fairly well with almost quarter-size bolls beginning to grow. The range of cotton conditions is equally broad, with some fields in excellent condition and others barely surviving.

      July 10 was a good day for many as rains fell primarily across the western portions of PCG's service area. Totals ranged from a trace all the way up to 1.5 inches just north of Plains. However, rainfall still is necessary across the region to sustain this crop, especially as water demand rises with the progression in boll development.

      For those who would like to get more information on the progression of this year's crop, Texas AgriLife Extension is hosting a "Mid-Season Crop Checkup" for cotton and peanuts on Thursday, July 26, from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. at the Terry County Co-op Gin, located at 1780 CR 450 in Brownfield. Presenters will discuss current issues in peanut and cotton crops, including weed control and insect management. For more information, contact Chris Bishop, Terry County CEA-AG, at (806) 637-4060.

      On the marketing side, December futures hovered around 72 cents as of mid-day Friday, July 20. Jay Yates, risk management specialist for Texas AgriLife Extension, said that one factor in today's cotton prices is that other commodities are trading at higher levels.

      "We don't have that much positive news in cotton to drive the price by itself," Yates said, "We are so out of sync now between prices for corn, soybeans and cotton that when it comes to planting for next year, (the numbers are) going to highly favor not planting cotton and planting corn, soybeans or in our case, even grain sorghum."

      For more detailed information on cotton marketing, including a weekly update, visit "The Cotton Marketing Planner," a publication by Dr. John R. C. Robinson, Professor and Extension Economist-Cotton Marketing with Texas AgriLife Extension at http://agecon2.tamu.edu/people/faculty/robinson-john/.