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Budget, trade woes threat to agriculture

“There may be some minor cuts,” said Kenneth Hood, Perthshire, Miss. farmer/ginner and former chairman of the National Cotton Council, “but it looks as if they won’t be the drastic cuts that were being talked earlier.”

However, he cautioned, as the government keeps wrestling with a ballooning deficit, the payment limitation provisions of the new farm bill “will continue to be attacked” by congressional opponents and anti-farm organizations.

“We’re just one year into the new farm program, and already efforts are being made to change the payment limits. As federal dollars get scarcer, Congress will be looking for any program where they can eliminate costs,” Hood said.

“A lot of misleading information” about payment limitations is being dished out to the public by these organizations, key media, and several powerful congressmen, he said. “They’re trying to divide and conquer agriculture, and we’ve got to be vigilant in protecting what we’ve achieved.

“Agriculture is the only sector that’s helping the federal budget. To drastically change these programs could have a very destabilizing effect on our nation’s food security and on the economy.”

Passing the farm bill battle last year was “only 50 percent” of agriculture’s battle, Hood said.

Trade problems present a major threat, he said, pointing out that textile imports in the 12-month period from March 2002 rose more than 146 percent.

“Our government has stood idly by and watched as China has wrecked the U.S. textile industry — which has been the traditional best customer for U.S. cotton.” Hundreds of U.S. plants have closed, with a loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The World Trade Organization’s endorsement of China for membership has only brought a bigger flood of textile imports, he said.

“China hasn’t lived up to the first one of its agreements under the WTO. When quotas go away altogether in 2005, it’s estimated China will have 60 percent to 70 percent of all the apparel business in the U.S.

“Because they can devalue their currency against the U.S. dollar pretty much at will, they can sell their products 40 percent under any other country,” Hood said. “China is going to devastate our agriculture, if we can’t get some relief. It’s important that every farmer talk to Congress and demand safeguards for what’s left of the U.S. textile industry.”


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