Congressional efforts to trim the federal budget deficit in recent days are a reminder of the need for continued vigilance on the part of farm groups, the National Cotton Council’s chairman says.

During the debate over H.R. 1, the continuing resolution needed to fund the federal government on March 4, Charles Parker says a number of amendments were offered that were what farm groups considered to be “direct attacks” on agricultural programs.

“One of those was (Wisconsin) Rep. Ron Kind’s amendment to prevent funding of the annual payment to Brazil – which was one of the terms of our government’s agreement with that country to avoid trade sanctions,” Parker told farmers attending the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis.

“In addition, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., offered a payment limitation amendment that would establish an overall limit of $250,000 per person for the sum of all payments. Thankfully, both Kind and Blumenauer’s amendments were soundly defeated.”

Parker, a ginner and farmer from Senath, Mo., who became chairman of the NCC at its annual meeting in San Antonio, said the Council was appreciative of the support from Cotton Belt members of Congress during the debate on H.R. 1.

“These events should serve as a sobering reminder of the difficulties facing agriculture and cotton,” he said. “There will be numerous other budget-related battles ahead when Congress debates the budget and debt-ceiling limit.”

Parker said the Council worked throughout 2010 to maintain constant contact with Congress and with administration officials on a host of legislative and regulatory issues, including farm bill implementation, the Administration’s budget proposal, the WTO Brazil trade dispute, new farm legislation, and a number of key regulatory issues.

“In the area of farm bill implementation, the Council has continued to work for the provisions to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the statute and Congressional intent,” he said. “The Council has made it clear that USDA should not compound the uncertainty and economic stress by changing and undermining the farm safety net of the 2008 farm bill.”

In preparation for the 2012 farm bill, the Council’s Farm Policy Task Force has been re-appointed and has been meeting regularly. “The task force has directed Council staff to prepare an assessment of alternatives so that during the next farm bill debate, our industry will be prepared for every possibility,” he noted.

The Council also joined with other organizations in a letter to Senate leadership to convey its support for permanently raising the estate tax exemption to no less than $5 million per person and reducing the top rate to no more than 35 percent.

Other issues have included:

  • Working with other agricultural organizations to promote Congressional approval for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to repeal EPA’s greenhouse gas endangerment finding;
  • Filing extensive comments to EPA’s draft general permit proposal for pesticide applications, while strongly supporting legislation to amend FIFRA to exclude applications from permitting requirements if used according to label requirements; and
  • Conveying the industry’s concerns on a broad array of environmental issues during a special meeting with USDA Secretary Vilsack and EPA Administrator Jackson.

 

Parker also commented on the current situation in the cotton markets, although he said he would not talk about cotton prices, leaving that area to Allenberg Cotton’s Joe Nicosia, another speaker at the Gin Show.

“In 2010, one of the most encouraging developments was the upturn in cotton’s global demand and the fact that the world needs more cotton – particularly – particularly in rapidly developing economies like China and India. I am very pleased to note that the Council’s export promotion arm, Cotton Council International, is well positioned and committed to capitalize on this opportunity.  

Parker led a CCI team to China last September to meet with representatives of “our largest customer” last September.

“In one area, we toured an experimental farm that had about 40 acres of cotton,” he said. “You know, they don’t use Pix in China. But, in one of those fields, they had cut the top out of every plant with scissors.

“We also learned they like our cotton in China,” he said. “They want to buy U.S. cotton.”