Verett, Hudson Testify Before

House Agriculture Committee Members

Friday, June 5, 2015                            By Mary Jane Buerkle

      Two cotton industry leaders from the Texas High Plains testified earlier this week to members of the House Agriculture Committee regarding issues facing cotton in particular and agriculture as a whole.

      "Farmers and ranchers across rural America are facing significant financial challenges. No one knows that better than cotton producers in my home area of west Texas," House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, who is from Midland, said in a news release. "Producers have seen a significant decrease in commodity prices, in many cases following multiple years of drought. It is more important now than ever that we work to provide rural America with the necessary tools to feed and clothe America and to compete in the global marketplace." 

      Steve Verett, a cotton, wheat, and sorghum producer with Verett Farms in Crosby County, was one of five witnesses on a panel before the Committee's General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee, which is led by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), to review the financial health of farm country. Verett also is executive vice president of PCG and treasurer of the Southwest Council of Agribusiness, but as a farmer himself, his testimony reflected concerns from not only his family, but farming families across the Cotton Belt.

      "It was a privilege to testify before Members of Congress and update them in a very public forum about the challenges we face every day as farmers, especially in cotton and especially now," Verett said. "I greatly appreciate the House Agriculture Committee for conducting these hearings, as it is important to keep these issues in the spotlight as we continue to adjust and develop farm policy for now and the future."

      Verett's primary points included the challenge of doing business in a bearish cotton market, particularly with regard to obtaining financing; the importance of crop insurance; the impact of current conditions on economies in both smaller towns and larger cities; and the need to protect and improve farm policy, especially considering other countries' subsidy and tariff systems and their impact on world markets, especially in cotton, with China as a prime example.

      "China serves as a specific though not by any means exclusive reason why we have and why we need U.S. farm policy," Verett said in his written statement, which is available along with the other panelists' statements and an archived video of the hearing at "Our farm policy is a very modest response to the kind of anticompetitive trading practices that we would not tolerate within our borders and which we should not tolerate outside of our borders either."

      Dr. Darren Hudson, Professor and Larry Combest Endowed Chair of Agricultural Competitiveness in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Texas Tech, explained that notion even further in his testimony on Wednesday to the full House Agriculture Committee as they reviewed rising foreign agriculture subsidies.

      Dr. Hudson presented information from his "Foreign Subsidies Database," compiled by the Cotton Economics Research Institute at Texas Tech and available at Hudson has briefed Congressional staff on this several times, but this was the first time this dataset was featured in front of the Full Committee.

      "There may be sound economic arguments that support a world without subsidies, but we do not live in one," Hudson said in his written statement to the Committee, available along with an archived video of the hearing at "Other countries are treating their agricultural sectors as a national asset for security purposes and for the U.S. not to consider the implications of those choices would leave us at a competitive disadvantage."


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Cotton Industry Seeks Volunteer Leaders

Friday, June 5, 2015                               By Shawn Wade

      The success of the High Plains cotton industry, like any group effort, is directly tied to the willingness of qualified individuals to volunteer to serve in various leadership positions. To identify these volunteers, the High Plains cotton industry caucuses each year with other cotton groups within Texas to identify producers interested in serving as a volunteer leader.

      PCG encourages all qualified individuals interested in representing the High Plains as a representative to the Cotton Board, National Cotton Council, or Cotton Incorporated to contact PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett for more information.

      Each year, a variety of volunteer positions within the NCC and Cotton Incorporated are filled directly through the industry's caucus process. In addition to naming representatives to the NCC and Cotton Incorporated, PCG and the Texas cotton industry also work together to identify and nominate qualified individuals to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for possible appointment as a Member or Alternate on the Cotton Board.

      Qualified individuals interested in serving on the Cotton Board, which oversees the highly successful U.S. Cotton Research & Promotion Program, also are encouraged to contact Verett at the PCG office in Lubbock to request additional information. PCG's telephone number is 806-792-4904.

      To be a qualified producer nominee for the Cotton Board, an individual should be actively engaged in cotton production at the time of nomination, be committed to the mission of the Cotton Board and the Cotton Research and Promotion Program, and have demonstrated leadership skills and experience.

      "Whether it is a nomination to serve on the Cotton Board or appointment to a leadership position within the National Cotton Council or Cotton Incorporated, the membership of Plains Cotton Growers has proven to be fertile ground for leaders within our industry," Verett said. "Our industry owes much to the dedicated men and women who step forward to serve their fellow producers. We look forward to extending that tradition of leadership in the years ahead."

      Editor's Note: The Cotton Board seeks to promote diversity and ensure equal opportunity and inclusion for all those who qualify for nomination and appointment to the Cotton Board regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, disability, socio-economic status, religion or sexual orientation.


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Our View: Fight Foreign Subsidies, Don't Unilaterally Disarm

Wednesday, June 3, 2015                 From Farm Policy Facts

      Farmers face a lot of risks the rest of us don't. And given the capital requirements of farming today, each of these risks has big financial consequences.

      There's the obvious risk: Mother Nature, which can wipe out a year's worth of hard work and investment via flood, drought, freezes, hailstorms, insects, plant disease, and the list goes on and on.

      But there are other factors outside a farmer's control that also dictate his or her ultimate success.

      Overreach by the EPA shackles producers with bureaucratic red tape and drives up production costs. And the global marketplace can be wrecked by less efficient foreign producers looking to gain an edge through trade barriers, subsidies or currency manipulation.

      All of these elements can leave a farmer feeling helpless. It's why America has a farm policy in the first place – one that was improved in 2014 to enable farmers to better tailor a safety net to the unique risks they face with their individual operations.

      But moving forward, it will be just as important for Congress to help minimize risks as it will be to provide affordable risk management tools.

      The House Agriculture Committee took a huge step in that direction today when it held a hearing devoted entirely to the foreign subsidies that are distorting prices of agricultural commodities.

      The hearing spotlighted two tremendous foreign subsidy resources worth a read.

      First, the Texas Tech Research Institute sponsors an online database of commodity-by-commodity and country-by-country subsidies.

      Developing countries, Texas Tech explained, supplement their price support programs with input subsidies that don't get factored in to WTO-set subsidy limits but still deform the market place. These countries also are more prone to erect trade roadblocks to U.S. goods.

      Next, the hearing recognized the exceptional work from DTB Associates, which has been previously highlighted by Farm Policy Facts.

      That research found that Brazil, China, India, Turkey, and Thailand were systematically increasing subsidy rates beyond WTO limits and failing to properly report their activities to avoid reform.

      For people interested in foreign subsidies, there are other materials worth referencing, too.

      Take, for example, the recent list of foreign trade barriers published by the U.S. Trade Representatives office. And, our friends at the American Sugar Alliance who have created a website about foreign sugar subsidies as part of their campaign to end all trade distorting sugar policies and compete on level footing.

      If America has a goal of obtaining free markets, then the time has come to pursue that goal by rooting out the biggest problems.

      And no, the first step to a free market cannot be to unilaterally disarm U.S. policies that are steadily declining, are well below WTO limits and are already far more market oriented than our competitors.

      Unilateral disarmament, which seems to be the goal of many farm policy opponents, does nothing to correct a volatile marketplace. It only rewards bad actors abroad and outsources America's food production.

      The first step must be to correct the alarming trend abroad to use subsidies and other questionable tactics like currency manipulation to corrupt the markets upon which U.S. farmers and consumers depend.