“These congressional members need to see our faces. They need to hear the challenges facing the cotton industry from cotton producers.” – Martin Stoerner, PCG President
PCG’s 2023 Legislative Activities
It’s been an eventful year on the legislative front. From 2023 Farm Bill advocacy to averting government shutdowns to Emergency Relief Program roll-outs, PCG has been actively engaged in fighting for strong farm policy.
In September 2023, the PCG officer team headed to Washington D.C. to discuss the challenges and hardships cotton producers are facing. See the statistics of that three-day trip below.
2023 Legislative Initiatives
PCG continues to advocate for a strong farm safety net. More than 200 congressional members had never worked on a farm bill prior to this year, so PCG worked to educate Congress on the needs of the U.S., state and High Plains cotton industries. The 2018 Farm Bill was extended through September 2024 amid growing political unrest and as Congress narrowly averted a potential government shutdown, twice. PCG looks forward to continuing to work with Congress and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on impactful farm legislation this coming year.
As Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) — a staunch advocate for agriculture and ally of PCG — so eloquently stated, it’s time to “put the farm back in the farm bill.”
Phase One of the 2020 and 2021 ERP was well received upon implementation. It contained several key improvements that PCG advocated for when compared to its predecessor disaster program (WHIP+), including the restoration of a producer’s insurance premium and fees; and resolving an issue known as “J” coding, which in some instances rendered producers ineligible for disaster assistance on their primary insurable crop.
Against Congressional intent, against industry input and despite the success of 2020 and 2021 ERP Phase One, USDA acted on their own accord for 2020 and 2021 ERP Phase Two, creating a tax-based certification program. Unfortunately, program benefits for Phase Two proved to be negligible at best, due to the poorly designed architecture of the program.
Now, USDA has rolled out ERP for 2022, which includes more aggressive payment factor calculations and a biased methodology for refunding producer-paid insurance premiums and fees.
We recently partnered with NCC, and over 140 federal and state advocacy groups, expressing the agriculture industry’s extreme discord with USDA’s ERP 2022 program provisions. Because of these efforts, initially lead by the cotton industry and key congressional leaders, at time of print, USDA has issued a pause in the implementation of the 2022 ERP program until a resolution can be reached. PCG continues to diligently engage and push back against the disparities created by USDA. We are actively monitoring the situation for our producers so a precedent like this is not set moving forward in future farm policy programs.
The last two years of persistent drought and poor cropproduction has pummeled the cotton infrastructuresegments of our industry, which relies heavily on volume tothrive.
The quest for infrastructure assistance started as early asDecember 2022, when PCG instigated an effort to includedisaster assistance for cotton infrastructure in the federal2022 omnibus spending package. Unfortunately, while avaliant effort was made, the initial federal attemptsuccumbed to political adversity and was left out of the finallegislation.
As the Texas 88th Legislative Session convened, PCG and others spent the duration of the session working to develop a one-time block grant that cotton infrastructure could qualify for to help keep them in business following one of the most catastrophic years in cotton production history. PCG lead the effort with the support of more than 170 agricultural organizations and cotton infrastructure segments advocating for the Texas legislature to pass much needed assistance.
While the Texas legislature was unable to muster the political means to include the request in the end, PCG has not given up, and we continue to look for legislative vehicles both at the federal and state level to develop disaster assistance in the near-term for cotton infrastructure.
Moreover, we’re looking to develop a more permanent solution for cotton infrastructure to help withstand variable production in an industry controlled by weather. PCG sincerely understands the impact that the last two crop years have had on producers and cotton infrastructure alike. If one industry segment struggles, we all struggle. It is important that we stand together to ensure all segments of the cotton industry remain vibrant and strong. We will keep you updated on the ongoing efforts to help infrastructure.