Unity, Advocacy Key Elements in

Avoiding Crop Insurance Cuts

Friday, October 30, 2015                     By Mary Jane Buerkle

      What happened with the budget agreement in Washington this week is a prime example of what can happen when agriculture unites for a common goal.

      To recap, late Monday evening, reports began to surface that crop insurance cuts would be part of a budget agreement between the White House and Congress, without the prior knowledge of the House or Senate Agriculture Committees or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By Tuesday morning, those proposed cuts were confirmed. This would mean certain death to Federal Crop Insurance.

      Advocates went to work to save the program that has kept many a producer in business, providing them with a risk management tool that helps them through the tough times. Here on the Texas High Plains, we know risk and we know tough times – especially in the cotton industry, where crop insurance is just about the only provision we have left.

      Fast forward to Wednesday. In less than 48 hours, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and Ranking Member Collin Peterson had announced that they had an agreement with leadership to strike this harmful language from the budget in the upcoming Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which is expected to come before Congress in the coming weeks. Senate Agriculture Committee leadership also were vocal about their opposition to reopening the Farm Bill and breaking a key promise made to farmers. Chairman Conaway truly was relentless in his pursuit of this goal.

      "Leadership has heeded our concerns by agreeing to completely reverse this disastrous provision in the upcoming omnibus," Conaway said in a news release from the House Agriculture Committee. "Crop insurance is working as intended, and private industry deserves to be lauded, not thrown under the bus. I take our leadership at their word when they committed to me and many of my colleagues that we will eliminate these harmful provisions in the not-so-distant future. While not the easiest path forward, this is a win for rural America and should be viewed as such."

      How did this happen so quickly? Organizations like Plains Cotton Growers, the National Cotton Council, and the Southwest Council of Agribusiness certainly played a key role in empowering and motivating members for what was a tremendous grassroots effort. But the real impact came from the farmers, ranchers, agribusiness leaders, and everyone with an interest in agriculture who took a couple of minutes to contact their Congressional representative. Technology enables us to be an advocate very quickly from wherever we are, and there is no doubt that many a call, an email, or a post on Facebook or Twitter, came from someone in the seat of a cotton stripper or a combine as they continued to do what they do best – produce the food and fiber that feeds and clothes this nation and the world.

      So we thank Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Peterson, and each and every Member of Congress who stood with agriculture. We thank each and every person who made a call, sent an email, posted on social media, or otherwise contacted their Representative or Senator. Our friends at Combest, Sell & Associates were told by Members of Congress that they had never seen a grassroots effort quite like this one. As PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett told Southwest Farm Press Editor Ron Smith, "Agriculture, as a whole, rose up and said enough is enough."

      Although this certainly is a win for agriculture, our work is by no means done – we have much more to do. Opponents such as the Environmental Working Group will continue to attack crop insurance and other aspects of farm policy. We must be vigilant and continue to capitalize on opportunities to tell anyone and everyone just how important crop insurance – and good farm policy – is to not just cotton growers, or growers in general, but to the entire region, state, and nation.


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Martinez Named Area Director of

Lubbock Cotton Classing Office

      Danny Martinez recently was named Area Director of the Cotton Classing Office in Lubbock.

      Martinez comes from Memphis, TN, where he served as an engineer for the Standards & Engineering Division since 2008. He also has worked as an engineer in the Phoenix and Florence classing offices, and was the Assistant Area Director in the Lubbock Classing for three years before coming to Memphis. Martinez has degrees in Industrial Engineering from Western Michigan University and Texas A&M University.


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Registration Open for Master Marketer Program in Abilene

      Registration is now open for the 2016 Master Marketer Program to be held in Abilene. The four sessions will be January 19-21, February 4-5, February 17-18, and March 2-3.

      The Master Marketer program is a 64-hour intensive marketing education course during which agricultural producers, ag lenders, and others are trained in marketing techniques, marketing plans, technical analysis, futures and options, and many other marketing related skills. This set of skills becomes their marketing "toolkit" which equips them to apply the skills to many situations that might arise when conducting agricultural business.

      To register, visit http://bit.ly/AbileneMasterMarketer.