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Administration farm bill aside, it's a long trip to river

The leadership of America's cotton industry was in Austin, Texas, when the Bush administration in January rolled out its 2007 farm bill proposal.

About 75 miles south of Austin is San Antonio, home of the Alamo. American cotton producers after reading the farm bill proposal must have felt like the 189 brave souls who in 1836 held off 4,000 Mexican soldiers to give the leaders of Texas time enough to establish a Republic. The U.S. cotton industry is in a fight for its survival.

“A disappointment, but not unexpected,” was Earl Williams' reaction to the Bush proposal. The straight talking Williams is president of California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations. His reaction was typical of others who read once again where the American government is failing to fully support one of the basic tenants of American democracy, the production of food and fiber to feed the nation.

“Unfortunately we seem to be back to trying to balance the budget on the backs of many in agriculture. It's a tune we've all heard before, but up to this point it never made the charts!

“Isn't it a shame that this administration is kowtowing to foreign government directives about what our farm policy should be? Its trade policies are killing the American farmers industry by industry. Cotton just happened to be the first in line for this administration,” commented Williams.

Don't mistake Earl's disappointment for giving up, even if the odds seem to be 189 to 4,000. As Earl “Junkyard Dog” Williams often says, “No siree,” The cotton man from Bakersfield, Calif., doesn't give up that easily, even with the longest odds this side of Vegas.

Earl is an Arkansan who migrated with his family as a teenager. Not sure if there were any fighters from Arkansas in the Alamo. However, Arkansans fought along side Texicans to establish the Republic of Texas and likely were in the army that defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto that atoned for the Alamo.

I may not have been able to find an Arkansan in the Alamo. However, a New Jersey-born silversmith named James Black found his way to Washington, Ark. He left an indelible mark on the Battle of the Alamo. During territorial days, Black developed a unique process for making knife blades…big knife blades. One of his customers was James Bowie who reportedly carried a Black-made “Bowie Knife” during the siege of the Alamo.

Brother Earl and his cotton industry brethren do not carry Bowie knives. They just borrow from another, more recent Texas tradition, Texas Hold ‘Em poker to make their point in how they are going to handle the Bush's ticket to sell American agriculture down the river.

Williams calls the Bush administration's proposed farm bill “the first two cards in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. There is a long way to the river.”

And he was not smiling when he said that, pard.

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