Senate, House Begin Farm Bill Negotiations

Friday, May 10, 2013                           By Mary Jane Buerkle

      After months of uncertainty surrounding farm policy negotiations, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House moved swiftly over the past week, releasing their draft versions of the Farm Bill on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

      The Senate Ag Committee will begin their markup of the bill on Tuesday, and the House Ag Committee is expected to begin their markup on Wednesday. After the committees complete their amendments, the bill will go the floor for debate, most likely in June.

      With regard to cotton and the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) program, the Senate bill is the same as the bill passed last summer. In the crop insurance title, producers can buy area-wide coverage that would cover anywhere from 70 to 90 percent. The program carries an 80 percent premium subsidy and no reference price, which industry leaders believe is a policy that would help resolve the World Trade Organization dispute with Brazil, who has long criticized target price or reference price provisions for cotton.

      The House bill has the exact same STAX provisions, but in the commodity title (Title 1), the House provides for a transitional direct payment for 2014 and 2015 only, in which the producer will be paid on 70 percent of their base in 2014 and 60 percent of their base in 2015.

      "The inclusion of the direct payment certainly is welcome, since we don't know how quickly the STAX program will be implemented," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said. "This will allow for a transition for our cotton producers from the Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program into a strictly crop insurance-based program."

      Both the House and Senate bills include the establishment of enterprise units for irrigated and non-irrigated acreage beginning with the 2014 crop year. The House bill also includes the opportunity to elect different insurance coverage levels by practice, beginning with the 2015 crop.


FSA Resumes SURE Payments as of May 8

Friday, May 10, 2013                           By Mary Jane Buerkle

      Producers and their bankers can breathe a little easier after an announcement on Wednesday from the Farm Service Agency stating their plan to immediately resume farm payments, including payments for the 2011 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE), that had been temporarily suspended because of sequestration.

      SURE provides assistance to producers who experience crop loss due to natural disasters. After two years of drought with the potential for a third year, income from the program would be essential to many operations, especially in planning financially for future crops.

      Many growers had completed the paperwork and received payments before the sequester went into effect on March 4, but it was not known until now what would happen to others who hadn't before then, or if payments that already had been issued would be affected in any way. Upon the sequester, USDA suspended payments while they worked toward a solution on how to address these issues.

      "We appreciate the producers' patience during the delay," USDA-FSA Administrator Juan M. Garcia said in a news release. "We're working diligently to get these payments out as quickly as possible."

      Other payments scheduled to resume were the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program (NAP) and the Milk Income Loss Contract Program (MILC).

      Three important enrollment deadlines for FSA-administered programs are coming up soon: 2013 Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program – June 3; 2011 SURE – June 7; and the 2013 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program – August 2. Producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office as soon as possible for appointments to enroll in these programs before the deadlines.


Agricultural Community Encouraged To

Attend High Plains Water District Meetings

Friday, May 10, 2013                           By Mary Jane Buerkle

      Current board members of the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1 are encouraging anyone interested in attending their monthly board meetings to come and participate.

      "We want as much input from our agricultural community as possible," HPWD board member Ronnie Hopper of Petersburg said. "It's vital that they are involved in making decisions that affect them, and we greatly value their experience and expertise."

      If you've been following Cotton News over the past several months, you undoubtedly are aware that several changes have taken place at HPWD, with four new members on the board. Lynn Tate of Amarillo, Mike Beauchamp of Friona, Ronnie Hopper of Petersburg and Brad Heffington of Littlefield all recently joined board veteran James Powell of Lubbock. Tate and Beauchamp were elected; Hopper and Heffington were appointed to fill unexpired terms after the resignations of Bruce Rigler and Jim Copeland, respectively. Tate currently serves as board president.

      "We've got to find common ground to carry out the duties of the High Plains Water District while working toward rules that don't harm producers economically," PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett said.

      The board's next monthly meeting is on Tuesday, May 14, from 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at the HPWD office, located at 2930 Avenue Q in Lubbock. For more information on the HPWD, visit


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