MARKET REALITY DEBUNKS NY TIMES CRITICISM OF AREA COTTON INDUSTRY
By Steve Verett
EVP, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.
One of the leading critics of U.S. agricultural policy in recent months has been the New York Times Editorial Board.
Numerous New York Times editorials have focused on cotton and tirelessly argued the mantra of those who shallowly believe U.S. cotton programs are chains holding back the unbridled will of the marketplace.
Two weeks ago an editor from the New York Times spent a few days in Lubbock, ostensibly to learn about the U.S. cotton industry and how the U.S. cotton program really works. Hours of discussions with producers and knowledgeable representatives from industry and academic arenas were invested in good faith to communicate the other side of the support picture.
The end result of those many hours of discussions was a New York Times' editorial entitled, "The Fabric of Lubbock's Life".
In it the New York Times reiterates its mantra for why elimination of U.S. cotton programs is the "magic bullet" that will increase cotton prices and lift the oppressed farmers of Burkino Faso, Benin and Mali out of their economic doldrums.
Unfortunately for the New York Times, it appears that a little more attention should have been paid to the world cotton market the past two weeks instead of devoting all their efforts to repackaging old arguments for the wholesale elimination of U.S. farm programs.
So what has changed since the New York Times editorial writer spent his time on the Texas High Plains, politely taking notes and "talking" with the real people of West Texas?
The answer is simple nothing but the market.
The same market, which the New York Times says is easily manipulated by the rich at the expense of the poor, has reacted quickly to the fundamentals that drive all markets in the end Supply and Demand.
The good news for the New York Times is that the higher cotton prices they say will remedy the economic woes of the cotton producer in Burkino Faso have arrived.
In fact, all of the things they say would happen when world cotton prices increase are occurring. Cotton producers in Burkino Faso, Benin, and even the United States, are getting more for the cotton they produce.
The cost of U.S. farm programs is going down, saving the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars. And, the overall effect on the consumer is likely to be negligible, after all there is only about a dollar's worth of cotton in a pair of jeans.
Reality has poked a huge hole in the New York Times' argument that U.S. cotton programs were solely responsible for low cotton prices. The bitter pill the New York Times said Lubbock and the U.S. cotton industry must take to reach that goal didn't need to be served after all.
No doubt subsidies help our cotton producers meet the higher costs of production that exist in this country, but government support of agriculture does so much more. It primes the economic engine and keeps all parts of the U.S. agriculture industry competitive in a drastically uneven global marketplace.
Farm programs at their most fundamental levels support the infrastructure of this nation's agricultural base. They encourage environmental stewardship and promote cleaner air and water by helping producers afford the increased costs associated with growing crops using environmentally friendly technology. They also help guarantee a safe and reliable food and fiber supply for the U.S. citizenry.
Following the money leads to a realization that agricultural subsidies only help make up the difference between production costs and world market prices and rarely stay in the producer's pocket. Instead, subsidies do exactly what they are designed to do; allow producers to pay for the goods and services required to produce a crop in the U.S. and support the infrastructure of their industry.
For the Lubbock area, cotton program dollars support agricultural product and service providers, churches, school districts, hospitals, car dealerships, restaurants and on and on. For Lubbock a healthy cotton industry continues to be a source of pride and economic reliability.
Farm programs exist because our population believes that a healthy U.S. agriculture sector is important to the long-term viability and security of this country.