While the November 2010 elections reduced the likelihood that some legislative initiatives adverse to agriculture would be passed in Congress, “the reality is that regulation could and would be used to achieve the goals of activists who are now in power,” says Kent Fountain, president of the National Cotton Ginners Association.

The Obama administration “has backed off some of the initiatives,” he said at the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, held in conjunction with the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show at Memphis, “and we can hope that this change in tone will persist for the next two years.”

Nonetheless, says Fountain, a Georgia producer/ginner, there are key issues that the NCGA and its member organizations are monitoring closely. They include:

— Changes in Congress, in particular those for the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

Industry leaders will have “a full agenda in educating new committee members, many of whom are freshmen lawmakers,” Fountain says.

“These new faces on committees, coupled with budget concerns and the World Trade Organization’s Brazil ruling, will have major implications for the 2012 farm bill debate and the cotton program.

“We’re already seeing the budget hawks taking shots at agricultural spending, and I assure you these arguments will continue throughout the budget debate, the appropriations process, and the writing of the new farm bill.

“Even with several pieces of onerous legislation and proposed rules either pulled or modified, there are a number of regulatory initiatives that may potentially have an impact on our industry,” Fountain says.

“It is important that we continue to maintain  a strong working relationship with the National Cotton Council and rely heavily on its Washington staff.. Many of the regulatory issues that face ginners are being monitored by the council’s Technical Services Department.”

— Air quality concerns, ranging from the current implementation of regulations to climate change legislation and other issues.

“With prompting from the California Cotton Ginners Association three years ago, the decision was made that our industry should develop a plan to obtain accurate measurements of emissions from gins across the cotton belt,” Fountain says.

Sampling of gins has now been done in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Missouri, and this fall researchers will sample a gin in North Carolina.

“We’re hoping that during this first quarter 2011 that preliminary data from this study can be made available.”