Speakers Inspire, Inform Attendees
at PCG Annual Meeting
Friday, April 11, 2014 By Mary Jane Buerkle
Plains Cotton Growers' annual meeting last week was an information-packed three hours that ended with keynote speaker Bruce Vincent reminding the group about the importance of advocacy.
"You don't have to be a wave. Be a ripple. Together, we can make a wave," Vincent said, noting that the strength of an association's membership directly correlates with their ability to be an effective advocate. "You have a responsibility to speak about your vision."
Vincent, whose appearance was sponsored by Farmers Cooperative Compress, is a third-generation logger from Libby, Montana. The general theme of his speech was about the need to balance environmental protection with common sense, and he noted that the modern green movement often relies more on fear than science to tell their story. However, he said, American agriculture is the greener choice, and producers should have more input in creating the laws that affect their livelihoods.
"As imperfect as we are, we're still the best we've ever been," Vincent said of American agriculture.
Other presenters echoed that positive sentiment for the industry. John Maguire, vice president of Washington operations for the National Cotton Council, said in his address to the group that the future for cotton is bright. Maguire received the first-ever Plains Cotton Growers' Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his 36 years of exceptional service to the U.S. cotton industry. Maguire will retire in early 2015.
Brandon Willis provided an overview of the implementation process, both from a USDA Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency perspective. Willis recognized the importance of getting key crop insurance provisions fully implemented as quickly as possible and was encouraged during a short question and answer session to ensure that those policy changes are in place by the 2015 growing season.
The High Plains cotton industry certainly has something to look forward to in September, as Texas Tech again will partner with PCG and others to host the Celebrate Cotton game. This year's game will be Saturday, September 13, as the Red Raiders host the Arkansas Razorbacks, said Steve Uryasz with Texas Tech Athletics.
Bryan Reynolds, Lynn County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, was named 2013 High Plains Cotton Agent of the Year. Reynolds has been in Extension education for 21 years, the last 19 in Lynn County.
Then-president Craig Heinrich noted PCG's activities and accomplishments in issues related to water, farm policy, and promotional efforts, along with the continued success of the cottonseed endorsement and the latest news regarding the Lesser Prairie Chicken.
Coverage will be posted soon at http://www.allagnews.com.
Timing of El Ni–o Rains Matters for 2014 Crop
April 8, 2014 By Dr. John Robinson for Southwest Farm Press
The possibility of an El Ni–o weather pattern has been grabbing a lot of recent headlines. El Ni–o weather patterns involve warming Pacific water temperatures, which result in deviations from normal rainfall across the globe. The predictable and potentially significant effects of El Ni–o rainfall patterns on global cotton production are from drier weather in Australia and Central India, and wetter weather for the U.S. Cotton Belt.
National Weather Service forecasters still put the odds at 50:50 for an El Ni–o beginning around mid-2014 or later. Australian forecast the likelihood of an El Ni–o pattern at 70 percent, and other private meteorologists are publishing similar odds. That suggests that moisture may be coming to the South Plains, but whether it hurts or helps the 2014 crop depends on the timing.
For growers in South Texas, the arrival of mid- to late summer rains is obviously not helpful since it just messes up the cotton harvest and hurts color grades. But in northern and western Texas, whatever cotton is still around in July and August might benefit from the onset of mid-summer El Ni–o rains. An example was 2009. Most of Texas' cotton crop got off to a dry start that year, and weekly crop condition ratings were pretty lousy well into the summer. Then late summer rains from an El Ni–o pattern kicked in and the resulting cotton yields were better than previously expected. However, even in West Texas the rains can sometimes start too late to help yield and result in a sloppy harvest season (the 2004 El Ni–o pattern was a notable example of that).
This season we have a lot of potential cotton acres for production uncertainty to play out. USDA's Prospective Plantings projected 11.1 million planted acres of all cotton (i.e., upland and Pima combined), with 6.4 million of that planted in Texas. Around 80 percent of those Texas plantings, almost 5 million acres, is in the Rolling Plains, South Plains, and Panhandle regions. Midsummer rains over those regions could mean anywhere from 0.5 to 1.0 million more bales coming out of Texas. Depending on what happens elsewhere in the Cotton Belt, the market implications of U.S. cotton production varying by that amount could mean cotton futures in either the upper or the lower 70-cent range.
The El Ni–o question may be even more influential if it comes early enough to result in weak monsoon rains over India. India plants a lot more cotton than the U.S., and variable rainfall there can cause swings in production on the order of 5 or 6 million bales. Those kinds of swings can have a larger influence on prices.
(PCG EDITOR'S NOTE: See this article online at http://southwestfarmpress.com/cotton/timing-el-ni-o-rains-matters-lot-2014-crop)
Farm Bill Not Only Preserves Crop Insurance,
But Improves Upon It
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 By Farm Policy Facts
When the 2014 Farm Bill was passed, Farm Policy Facts applauded lawmakers for preserving this cornerstone of the farm safety net—crop insurance.
The prioritization of crop insurance in the 2014 Farm Bill stands as a clear recognition that these tailored policies are playing the most integral role in farmers' risk management portfolio, even as they have shouldered more than $12 billion in cuts since the last 2008 Farm Bill. Farmers pay significant premiums to purchase these policies which protect a large part of their risk, while protecting taxpayers at the same time.
But beyond this, the 2014 Farm Bill offered a little bit of something for everyone—even its traditional critics. Crop insurance is not meant to be an exclusive policy for corn, wheat, cotton and other traditional staple crops. Crop insurance is explicitly designed to be more inclusive and to allow the measured expansion to cover specialty crops, organic crops and even livestock. To this end, the Farm Bill expands on and directs the inclusiveness of the policy. Specifically, the Farm Bill:
á Allows the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) to prioritize new crop insurance product applications, specifically giving priority to underserved commodities and regions.
á Includes special provisions for beginning farmers and ranchers that will reduce their premiums and allow them to maximize the yields and revenues covered by policies.
á Requires the FCIC to offer producers an organic price election for organically produced crops.
á Provides FCIC the authority to conduct research and development for a variety of new insurance products, including products for food safety, biomass products, poultry and whole farm crop insurance policies.
á Improves potential coverage by providing an option to purchase a Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) crop insurance if enrolled in Price Loss Coverage (PLC).
The Farm Bill also places a renewed emphasis upon policy integrity, providing resources for the FCIC to ensure actuarial soundness and financial integrity.
The inclusiveness of crop insurance is one reason that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has spoken so glowingly about the policy.
"Today, crop insurance is the foundation of this Farm Bill and the farm safety net," Stabenow said. "The farmer gets a bill, not a check with crop insurance É and they don't get help unless they really need it."
Unfortunately, some lawmakers are now angling to gut the new crop insurance policy before it's ever had a chance to be implemented.
Stabenow's counterpart with the House Agriculture Committee, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), calls such attempts foolish.
"The group in the Capitol Building that pushes this, stepping away from the members, are what I refer to as the professional environmentalists," Lucas said in a recent interview with The Oklahoma Farm Report-Radio Oklahoma Network. "They don't like crop insurance because they don't like farming. So if you take away part of the safety net, you discourage farming."
Lucas and Stabenow recognize that the 2014 Farm Bill was the product of four years of hard-fought battles and compromises. The improved and expanded crop insurance policy is a perfect example of the fruits of this hard labor, and the farmers and ranchers it is meant to serve deserve for the bill to be fully implemented.