That explanation process is especially difficult in light of the fact that obstacles continue to pop up that act to delay approval of the Senate’s version of farm legislation.

As of Dec. 14 the Senate appeared to be looking at a farm bill vote no sooner than Tuesday, Dec. 18. Had Senate Democrats been successful in their effort to pass a cloture motion to limit further debate and restrict the filing of additional amendments the Dec. 18 vote would have been locked in. As it stands now, Tuesday is still a likely date, but by no means a date certain.

Plains Cotton Growers and cotton producers across the High Plains have been actively communicating with Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas encouraging them to seek the quickest possible route to passage of the Bill without neglecting the need to fairly debate proposed amendments to S.1731.

We have also made additional contact restating the fact that U.S. agriculture needs the farm bill process to move forward, and it needs to have a bill laid before the president at the earliest possible date to guarantee the parameters and programs that producers will operate under in 2002.

Producers and others who understand the critical need that exists for a redirection of farm programs are watching the Senate closely. It is clear that they are differentiating between legislators that are listening to their concerns and acting to move the process forward and those who seem unconcerned with the serious financial situation of farmers and ranchers struggling to survive and turn a profit.

Some Republican Senators have argued that S.1731 has so much extra baggage that it will not be able to be easily conferenced with H.R. 2646, The Farm Security Act of 2001, which was passed in October by the House of Representatives through the concerted efforts of House Ag Committee Chairman Larry Combest and ranking member Charles Stenholm.

That argument rings slightly hollow as the primary Republican alternatives also have their own challenges to overcome in a conference committee setting.

The bottom-line for producers is that Congress must conclude its work on the farm bill and send it to the president as quickly as possible. Political gamesmanship is easy to spot and constituents, with the availability of live coverage of activities in Washington, will ultimately make the determination of who is serious and who is not.

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