A bipartisan group of Cotton Belt Senators and House members, led by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Representatives Etheridge (D-NC) and Emerson (R-MO), has written Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer to stress that it is inappropriate and unnecessary for USDA to cause serious disruptions in current farming operations by proposing unwarranted changes in the way it makes actively-engaged-in-farming determinations.

Twenty Senators and more than 40 House members signed separate letters that also request that the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) publish rules and regulations pertaining to new Adjusted Gross Income and payment limit reforms as soon as possible.

The letters remind the Secretary that the new law includes significant reforms in payment limitations and eligibility but does not require changes in the way individuals or entities are determined to be “actively-engaged-in-farming.” Implementation of two new income tests and direct attribution will cause significant challenges and require adjustments for many farming operations.

Sign-up for 2009 should begin in October and the law requires that advance Direct Payments be available in December, meaning that the Farm Services Administration (FSA) and farmers must know the rules before signing up and requesting payments.

National Cotton Council (NCC) Chairman Larry McClendon expressed appreciation to Senator Chambliss and Representatives Etheridge and Emerson along with the other Cotton Belt Senators and Congressmen who signed the letters. McClendon said, “It is vitally important that USDA move quickly to implement the new rules and that it make no changes to actively engaged eligibility rules, as none were required by the law.”

Chuck Coley, a producer from Vienna, GA, who chairs the American Cotton Producers of the NCC, expressed appreciation to Senator Chambliss for his efforts to insure the new law, which he co-authored and steered through a protracted debate, is implemented in the way Congress intended.

Max Denning, an officer of the North Carolina Cotton Producers Association, expressed appreciation to Representative Etheridge (D-NC) -- who chairs the General Farm Commodities subcommittee -- for urging USDA to publish rules necessary to allow farmers to begin to signup for the 2009 programs as soon as possible. “In this time of market uncertainty and escalating costs farmers and their lenders need access to a predictable safety-net program to begin plans for 2009 and beyond,” Denning said.