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Budget, Brazil heat up farm bill debate

Pressures mounting from Brazil's complaint against the U.S. cotton program and U.S. budget reconciliation will heat up the farm bill debate this fall, and some parts of the current farm program are sure to be affected, according to Gary Adams, vice president for economics and policy analysis for the National Cotton Council.

But Adams, speaking at the AgTechnology Field Day at Agricenter International in Memphis, Tenn., on July 28, expressed optimism that agriculture will be able to maintain an effective safety net for its commodities.

Adams noted that the 2002 farm bill, which covers agriculture though the 2007 crops, “is one of the most challenged farm bills we've ever had, from within and outside the United States.

“One challenge is the case brought by Brazil through the WTO which challenged portions of the U.S. cotton program. Most of the findings of the panel went against the U.S. program… which may lead to changes in the cotton marketing loan programs.”

Cases against other commodities could follow, Adams noted. “We've heard in just the last few days of a possible challenge brought against the U.S. rice program by Uruguay.”

Budget reconciliation is adding another layer of pressure to the farm bill, noted Adams. “Agriculture has been asked to come up with $3 billion in savings. Any budget cuts in agriculture would likely take place for the remaining years of the current farm bill.

“But if changes have to occur, they have to be done in such a manner to minimize the impact on producers and in an equitable manner. As we look ahead at the two to three years left on this farm bill, it's clear that a lot of the debate has already begun.”

USDA is holding listening sessions to hear what growers have to say about the current farm bill and what they'd like to see in future farm bills. “We expect this to be a wide open debate,” Adams said. “A lot of things will be on the table and we expect to see payment limits revisited. There will also be a new trade agreement that will have some impact on the structure of the farm bill.”

Adams said there is a good chance that agriculture will “maintain an effective safety net” for its commodities, “but it will take a concerted effort by agriculture.”


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