Ag Outlook Underscores Importance of

Capital, Strong Farm Policy

Friday, October 16, 2015                From Farm Policy Facts

      Thirty-five years ago, agriculture was on the cusp of crisis. The economy was in the tank, crop prices were low, debt was climbing, and farms were being foreclosed upon. But with some key risk management tools made available through U.S. farm policy, agriculture rose to the challenge, just as it always has.

      Looking ahead over the next 35 years, farmers will again need to step up, particularly to meet the needs of a rapidly growing world population – all while using less land, less water, fewer inputs, and dealing with extreme weather and volatile prices caused by global markets distorted by high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs, and other barriers to trade.

      To succeed, Wade Easley, President and CEO of First National Bank of Hereford, with locations in Hereford and Friona, Texas, said farmers and ranchers will need a trifecta.

      "New technology, strong farm policy, and access to money will all be important to help growers deal with the cyclical nature of farming in the decades to come," he said.

      But there are current economic hurdles that must be met before all eyes can turn to the future.

      "Today, commodity prices are down sharply and input costs are up, especially costs associated with irrigation," he explained. "The ag economy in Texas has been affected, and cash flow has tightened up significantly, leading several [farm] operators to bear down and borrow more short term operating loans."

      Easley said loans like these are what gets farmers through the lean years, but these loans wouldn't be possible without strong Farm Bill and crop insurance serving as a backstop.

      Unfortunately, opponents of farm policy are busy trying to cut holes in the safety net, and they often point only to the good years as their justification for harmful reductions.

      When the most recent Farm Bill was debated, low borrowing costs, improved commodity prices, and rising farm income led to a strong demand for farm assets. Farming for producers of many crops in strong production areas was profitable, and as a result, farm policy became an easier target.

      "We no longer have a lot of the safety net that Farm Bills have provided in the past," Easley noted, explaining that the worst thing that could happen to agriculture now would be further cuts. "If we want agriculture to be there tomorrow, we cannot make foolish choices today. It's important that we collectively advocate for strong ag policy."

      The Southwest Council of Agribusiness is one organization doing just that. This week, the group of 120 farm, bank, and agribusiness leaders from five states met in Lubbock, Texas, to plan for the future. And high on the list was how to deal with declining farm incomes.

      Farm income is already forecasted to be cut in half compared to just two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

      And projected trends suggest the potential for future farm risk and generally weaker ag credit conditions. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City recently noted that a prolonged downturn through 2016 could start to severely weaken farmers' financial positions.

      A 25 percent increase in the volume of operating loans in the last year indicates that the economic climate is already shifting, according to another agricultural lender.

      "I would not be surprised to see another double digit increase in farm operating and long term loans over the next few years, especially when we consider the three to five-year outlook for grain prices and the recent sharp decline in cattle prices," said Kaleb Horne, a lender at Lyons State Bank in Central Kansas.

      He added: "A primary concern for our area is a producer's ability to service term debt repayment obligations and any short term debt that will be restructured during the down turn. Unfortunately, input costs haven't adjusted lower to a level where most producers can operate at a profit."

      In some cases, farm policy and access to additional operating capital is all that's keeping growers going.

      Horne and Easley agree that agriculture has historically shown resilience when the chips are down, but say we cannot ignore the projected trends and need to make sure farmers have the long-term tools necessary to succeed.

      The next few years very well may be defining for the future outlook of agriculture. And the whole world has a lot riding on the outcome.



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"Ag in the Bag" Program Teaches

Elementary Students About Agriculture

Friday, October 16, 2015                        By Mary Jane Buerkle

      More than 1,300 fourth-grade students from Lubbock and the surrounding areas watched DaVida the dairy cow being milked, saw how their jeans were made, and learned how agriculture impacts their daily lives at the annual "Ag in the Bag" program, held earlier this week at the Texas Tech Livestock Arena in Lubbock.

      Topics included dairy, corn, cotton, peanuts, sorghum, water, beef, sheep, meat science, food science, and various other agricultural concepts.  A committee of volunteers plans the event, which is free to the schools because of financial support from sponsors. Students from Lubbock ISD, Lubbock-Cooper, Lubbock Christian Schools, New Home, Patton Springs, Sands, Christ The King, and New Deal attended the program.

      "It's so important to reach out to our kids to teach them where their food and fiber comes from," committee president Lynn Simmons with South Plains Electric Cooperative said.

      Sponsors of the program include Bayer CropScience/FiberMax/Stoneville, Lubbock County Farm Bureau, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, South Plains Electric Cooperative, Texcraft Inc., Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, AgTexas Farm Credit Services, Plains Cotton Growers, Capital Farm Credit, Texas Tech Federal Credit Union, City Bank Texas, Texas Corn Producers, Texas Peanut Producers Board, Cornerstone Group Inc., United Sorghum Checkoff Program, Southwest Dairy Farmers, Gandy's, Premier Media Group, Taylor Insurance, Lubbock County Soil and Water Conservation District, Hurst Farm Supply, Farmers Cooperative Compress, and Dairy MAX.


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U.S. Cotton Spinning Mills Tour Vietnam

Monday, October 12, 2015 From Cotton Council International

      The COTTON USA Sourcing Program organized a delegation of U.S. cotton spinning mills to visit Vietnam to meet with potential customers in preparation for "yarn forward" provisions of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. The trip coincided with the conclusion of TPP negotiations.

      "CCI has given us a great opportunity to explore the market potential for U.S. cotton yarns in Vietnam in preparation for the TPP," said John Garris, Vice President of Sales for Frontier Spinning. "This trip has allowed the U.S. cotton yarn industry to see more in one week than we would have been able to do so alone, and has been very valuable for us."

      Buhler Quality Yarns, Frontier Spinning and Parkdale participated in a seminar with the Vietnamese industry to introduce U.S. manufactured cotton yarns. They participated in one-on-one meetings with 20 companies during a private trade fair in Ho Chi Minh City.

      The mills also visited 12 companies in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to learn more about the Vietnamese textile industry's yarn requirements. The delegation met with companies from Korea and Taiwan with large investments in Vietnam, as well as Vietnamese mills.


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COTTON USA and Supima Showcase U.S.

Cotton Fashions in Paris

Friday, October 16, 2015   From Cotton Council International

      COTTON USA and Supima showcased U.S. cotton eveningwear gowns from emerging American designers during a prestigious fashion show at the U.S. Ambassador's Residence in Paris.

      At the invitation of U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco, Jane D. Hartley, COTTON USA and Supima hosted a fashion show and exhibition for distinguished guests with a spotlight on the collection of the Supima Design Competition's winner Kate McKenna-Schliep from the Savannah College of Art and Design. The exhibition also featured the collections of the competition's other six finalists.

      "The exhibition in Paris allowed new designers to showcase their talent and how they brought the vision for their collections to life through U.S. cotton fabric, while promoting the benefits of using premium U.S. cotton within the fashion industry," COTTON USA International Marketing Manager Stephanie Thiers-Ratcliffe said. "The collections really highlighted the versatility of U.S. cotton in fashion."

      Each finalist created a capsule collection of women's eveningwear gowns from premium U.S. Pima cotton denims, knits, corduroys, twills and shirting.

      "This event was a real opportunity to feature and elevate not only American grown cotton, but also the incredible talent and creativity in fashion design that is being nurtured in the United States," Supima Executive Vice President Marc Lewkowitz said.

A panel of guest judges comprised of industry professionals selected McKenna-Schliep as the winner of the Supima Design Competition on Sept. 10, 2015, following a fashion show at New York Fashion Week. Seven finalists from America's top design schools (AAU, FIDM, FIT, Kent State, Pratt BF+DA, RISD, SCAD) participated in the competition.

      COTTON USA also has a history of supporting up-and-coming fashion designers through its London Fashion Week sponsorship, including past sponsorship of Faustine Steinmetz, Lucas Nascimento, Preen, Richard Nicoll, Meadham Kirchhoff, PPQ, Louise Gray and palmer//harding. This sponsorship communicates U.S. cotton's quality, versatility and high fashion credentials to consumers.