Barry Evans makes a good case for a High Plains economy that includes significant cotton acreage. In fact, he makes a good case for how important cotton is to the health of the U.S. economy.

Cotton has accounted for 12 percent of all U.S. commodity exports for the past two years, Evans, president of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., said during his address at the annual meeting in Lubbock.

“Cotton creates jobs and economic activity in rural America and across the country,” he said. “Cotton is the shining jewel in U.S. economic activity. It keeps the pump primed.”

Keeping the cotton industry strong is an ongoing challenge, however. “We had a time getting the 2008 farm bill passed,” Evans said. “It took two veto overrides. That shows a lot of support and that Congress realizes the importance of keeping the farm bill going.”

He said avoiding a limit on market loan gains was a big win for the cotton industry. “That’s one of the most important aspects of the farm bill,” he said. He said the improvement to spouse eligibility rules also helped family farms.

“But the farm bill has recently been under fire, especially with payment limitations and the adjusted gross income numbers. “We realize the importance of our friends in congress, the old ones and new ones,” he said. Some of those friends have been communicating to the Obama administration that “further cuts in farm programs are unwarranted. We will continue to battle misinformation and emphasize the importance of agriculture. Agriculture supports jobs across the U.S. economy. Agriculture is a critical part of what keeps this country going. Our strength is our ag economy.”

He said farmers need to be aware of changes in farm programs, especially in insurance coverage. “We have to look at each farm differently,” he said.

Evans said a pilot project that would ensure cottonseed could be a boost to the industry. “Cottonseed is an important source of revenue and being able to ensure it will help with risk management.”

Evans said cotton farmers have to support their associations to keep farm programs viable. “We have to build coalitions of farmers, ginners and others and speak in a unified voice.”

He said PCG works closely with the National Cotton council and their efforts expand with other commodity associations, ranchers, bankers, retail merchants and others with vested interests in agriculture’s success. He said the Southwest Agribusiness Council, a relatively new organization, is “a good addition to PCG and the NCC.”

email: rsmith@farmpress.com