Welcome to the March 3, 2023 issue of Cotton News, a service provided by Plains Cotton Growers Inc. for the cotton industry in the Texas High Plains and beyond.
Headwinds Facing Production Ag: House Agriculture Committee Holds Its First Hearing of 118th Congress
The first House Agriculture Committee hearing of the 118th Congress took place Tuesday, February 28, focusing on uncertainty, inflation and regulations that present challenges to the U.S. agriculture industry.
Rep. GT Thompson (R-Pa.), committee chair, opened the hearing stating legislators cannot write an impactful farm bill addressing the needs of those who grow, process and consume the food, fuel and fiber of this country without a comprehensive understanding of the industry’s challenges.
“Our nation’s farmers, ranchers and foresters are exceptional, having increased food and fiber production nearly threefold since the 1940s,” added Thompson. “They’ve done so with no relative increase in inputs, serving as shining stars of sustainability and conservation practices. However, the uncertainty caused by a global pandemic, geopolitical unrest and government intrusion have led to a modest production decline in recent years.”
Thompson outlined his goal for the committee as providing necessary tools for farmers and ranchers to ease the barriers to production to prevent this decline from escalating. He identified the barriers as the following:
- Fuel (average cost of diesel fuel per gallon increased 95% in 2021)
- Fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium increased 125% in 2021 and an additional 30% in the first five months of 2022 alone)
- Inflation (natural gas price increased 53% in 2021)
- Interest Rates
The one positive, Thompson added, was Americans’ heightened awareness of the importance of a reliable domestic food supply and the producers who provide it. “It’s the only silver lining.”
He closed his opening statement by challenging committee members to “retire our dress shoes and put on our work boots. We have a lot of work to do.”
The first witness called for the first hearing of the 118th Congress was Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Duvall stressed that strong farm policy is part of a national security strategy. “The country that cannot feed itself is not secure.”
The challenges listed by Duvall during his statement include the following:
- Losses experienced in the trade war with China
- Pandemic lockdowns
- Supply chain disruptions
- Record-high supply costs
- Unprecedented volatility that farmers and ranchers have faced in recent years.
- Short- and long-term interest rates are rising double and triple what they were a year ago.
Duvall went on to reference the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast report of farm sector income. According to the report, net farm income for 2023 is projected to decrease by 15.9% — adjusted for inflation makes it 18%. However, the same report estimates that farm and ranch production expenses will increase by $18 billion, following a record increase of $70 billion in 2022.
“Some of us remember the high interest rates caused by inflation combined with the federal response leading to a farm debt crisis in the 1980s,” he added. Duvall emphasized the need to make sure history didn’t repeat itself.
While there are many challenges, there are also opportunities, Duvall noted, referencing our incredible advances in sustainability. However, government regulation is stifling the opportunity with the new Waters of the U.S. ruling, Endangered Species Act, access to important crop protection tools, immigration and labor regulations, etc. Not to mention the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s desire to impose new climate regulations, which Duvall says “are meant for Wall Street.”
The hearing was more than five hours long, as six witnesses presented and every committee member was given an opportunity to ask them questions. “We appreciate everyone’s endurance, and, quite frankly, the ag industry and meeting the needs of every American family is well worth our endurance,” Thompson said in his closing remarks.
Easing burdensome regulations off the backs of farmers will only allow them to prosper in their innovative efforts to do more with less. As Duvall stated, they already have uncertainty in the weather. Strong farm policy to further ease the measures outside of a farmer’s control allows everyone to do their part in securing the future of the nation.
Farm Bill Listening Session in Texas
Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.), will host a Farm Bill listening session in Waco, Texas, on March 15th at 2 p.m.
Mr. Thompson will be joined by Congressman Pete Sessions (TX-17) , Congressman Ronny Jackson (TX-13) and Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), along with bipartisan Members of the House Committee on Agriculture.
The event will bring together farmers, ranchers, producers, agribusiness owners and more to solicit public feedback — an integral part of the Farm Bill reauthorization process. All members of the Committee have been invited to participate as well as the Texas Congressional delegation.
Deadlines and Reminders
ARC/PLC decisions must be dictated to your local FSA office by March 15.
Conservation Reserve Program Sign-up Dates
General sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will begin February 27 and end April 7.
U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol
March 31, 2023, is the deadline for U.S. cotton producers to enroll their 2023 crop in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.
PCG Annual Meeting
PCG’s 66th annual meeting is on March 28 at the Overton Hotel and Conference Center. Register online today!