Texas Appellate Court: ACSA Arbitration Rules

Found to be "Substantively Unconscionable"

Friday, January 11, 2013                   By Mary Jane Buerkle

      Advocates for a more fair cotton contract dispute arbitration process scored a win Friday as the state's Eleventh District Court of Appeals agreed with a Gaines County judge in the 121st Judicial District who deemed the arbitration rules of the American Cotton Shippers Association, as applied to disputes between merchants and producers, as "substantively unconscionable."

      Venture Cotton Cooperative and Noble Americas Corporation appealed the original decision, which occurred after cotton contract disputes between them and certain High Plains cotton producers were being forced into ACSA arbitration. The growers involved in the contractual disputes contested the terms of the arbitration.

      Although Plains Cotton Growers never took any position on the merits of the lawsuit in Gaines County nor any other cotton contract dispute, staff began meeting with growers about a year ago to discuss issues related to the ACSA arbitration process. As a result, PCG filed an amicus, or "friend of the court", letter brief with the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, supporting the Gaines County judge's decision and stated that the ACSA arbitration rules, as applied to merchant-to-producer contracts, placed producers at a serious disadvantage.

      "Above all, PCG supports sanctity of contract between all parties involved," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "Going forward, it's our goal to make sure that if arbitration is going to be included in cotton contracts, it's going to have to be an arbitration process that provides equal representation for both sides. The process for settling any cotton contract dispute has to be fair."

      PCG will continue to work through the National Cotton Council to effect change in the ACSA arbitration process so that producers and merchants have equal opportunity for success without causing undue economic hardship.


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January Crop Report Lowers

High Plains Production Estimate

Friday, January 11, 2013              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 2.92 million bales, down from 3.4 million in their December report. Expected statewide production dropped from 5.5 million bales to 5 million bales. Nationwide upland production estimates were down from the December report to 16.25 million bales.

      However, worldwide production for the month was estimated to be higher and consumption slightly lower, resulting in ending stocks of 81.7 million bales, according to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report.

      Yield per acre estimates increased for both the northern and southern portions of the Plains Cotton Growers service area. The northern half estimates increased slightly, from 726 pounds/acre to 745, but estimates for the southern half jumped 89 pounds from 458 pounds/acre to 547.

      The report also decreased harvested acreage by 790,000 acres, from 3.11 million acres in December to 2.32 million acres of the 4.22 million planted in the area in 2012. As a result of that adjustment, acreage abandonment on the High Plains now is estimated at about 45 percent for 2012.

      Cotton acreage nationwide for 2013 is predicted to decrease, with some projecting planted acreage to be as low as 10 million. However, much of that shift is expected to occur in areas other than the High Plains, where only a slight adjustment is expected.

      "We've still got a lot of time before any seed goes into the ground on the High Plains and those decisions are made," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said.

      Much of the High Plains received welcome rainfall this past week, and almost all of the West Texas Mesonet sites have recorded at least a half-inch for the month.



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NCC Planting Survey Deadline is January 16

      All cotton producers are encouraged to respond to the National Cotton Council's annual survey of 2013 planting intentions, which was recently distributed to upland and extra-long staple cotton producers across the Cotton Belt.

      The current survey was distributed through a combination of regular mail and email with the intent of reaching all U.S. cotton farms. Growers who did not receive a survey may contact the NCC via email at econsurvey@cotton.org for survey instructions.

      The survey, conducted each year to aid with industry planning and policy deliberations, provides the basis for the economic outlook presented to delegates during the NCC Annual Meeting in early February. Survey results will be presented during the Joint Meeting of Program Committees on Saturday morning, Feb. 9. To enhance the survey's accuracy, producers are encouraged to respond by the Jan. 16 deadline.



PCG Board Meets Wednesday, January 16

      The next regular meeting of the Board of Directors for Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. will begin at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, January 16, at the 50-Yard Line Restaurant in Lubbock. Dinner will be served at the conclusion of the meeting.

      Dr. John Robinson with the Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics will give a cotton market report and Tom Sell with Combest, Sell and Associates will update the group on legislative issues. Kevin Latner with Cotton Council International also will speak to the group about activities at CCI. Other items include an update from PCG's Water Advisory Committee and a PCG financial report.

      For more information, contact PCG at (806) 792-4904.



Area Ag Conferences Scheduled for January

      January 14 - Cotton Conference, Perryton Expo - Contact Scott Strawn, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-435-4501.

      January 14 - Hutchinson/Hansford Cotton Meeting, O'Laughlin Building, Spearman - Contact Kristy Synatschk, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-878-4026.

      January 15 - Cotton Production Meeting, Groom Community Center - Contact Jody Bradford, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-537-3882.

      January 17 - Texas Alliance for Water Conservation Winter Meeting, 8 a.m., Floyd County Unity Center in Muncy - Contact Christy Barbee, 806-742-2774.

      January 21 - Cotton Production Profit Workshop, Morton - Contact Jeff Molloy, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-266-5215.

      January 22 - South Plains Ag Conference, Brownfield - Contact Chris Bishop, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-637-4060.

      January 22 - Grain Sorghum Symposium, Ollie Liner Center, Plainview - Contact Gary Cross, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-291-5267.

      January 23 - Northwest Texas AG Conference, Wellington - Contact Dale Dunlap, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-447-2313.

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

      January 25 - Commercial Turf and Ornamental Workshop, Lubbock - Contact Mark Brown, CEA-AG, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-775-1680.

      January 25 - Llano Estacado Cotton Conference, Bailey County Coliseum, Muleshoe - Contact Curtis Preston, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-272-4584.

      January 28 - iPhone/iPad Training - Seminole Civic Building, Seminole - Contact Terry Millican, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 432-758-4006.

      January 29 - Grain Sorghum Symposium, Lubbock - Contact Mark Brown, CEA-AG, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-775-1680.


      January 29 - Small Farms Business Seminar, Plainview - Contact Gary Cross, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-291-5267.

      January 29 - Cotton Variety and Economics Workshop, Farwell Community Center - Contact Benji Henderson, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-481-3619.

      January 30 - Alternative Crops Meeting, Post - Contact Greg Jones, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-495-4400.

      January 31 - Sorghum Variety Selection and Economic Management Meeting, Brownfield - Contact Chris Bishop, County Extension Agent-AG, for more information at 806-637-4060.

      If you have another conference to add to this list, or if you have an agenda you'd like to link, please call PCG at (806) 792-4904 and ask for Mary Jane Buerkle, or email maryjane@plainscotton.org. All spring conferences are listed at http://www.plainscotton.org/agconferences.html.



Watch Your Mail for Census of Agriculture

      The 2012 Census of Agriculture forms were mailed to more than 3 million U.S. agricultural producers during the last week of December. In Texas, about 375,000 Census forms are being mailed out. The mailings include all known farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers, plus a large number of potential agricultural producers.

      The Census is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The Census looks at land use and tenure, operator characteristics, production practices and economic information. The Census provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation. Through the Census, producers will show the value and importance of agriculture in their county and can help influence decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture. By responding to the Census, producers are helping themselves and their communities.

      The Census of Agriculture has mandatory reporting authority, just like the population Census. This is due to the tremendous value of the information and because of the large amount of funds and resources targeted and allocated based on Census results.

      Individual information is guaranteed complete confidentiality by federal law, Title 7 of the U.S. code. Title 7 prevents NASS from sharing individual information with any other government agency and also gives NASS immunity from any type of mandatory disclosure of individual data, including legal processes and FOIA.

      NASS is restricted to publishing only aggregate totals at state and county levels such that the identity of any individual is not discernible in the published totals.

      There is a toll free phone number on the front of the Census form for anyone with questions: (888) 424-7828. NASS will operate calling centers from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, to respond to incoming calls.

      For more information about the Census of Agriculture, please call the USDA's NASS Texas Field Office at (800) 626-3142.