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Western Farmer Stockman

Farmers need stable farm policy

U.S. cotton producers want farm programs that are stable and follow the intent of Congress without unnecessarily complicating the lives of growers who produce the majority of the nation’s food, fiber and fuel.

Members of the National Cotton Council, the organization representing the U.S. cotton industry, support the 2008 farm bill’s marketing loan and direct and counter-cyclical payment provisions, said NCC Chairman Eddie Smith, a producer from Floydada, Texas.

But Smith said cotton growers are unhappy with USDA’s interpretation of Congress’ intent in the 2008 farm bill, which made historic changes to payment limitations and program eligibility. Limitations were made more restrictive by eliminating the three-entity rule, applying direct attributions, and the adjusted gross income test was substantially tightened.

“Unfortunately, USDA went beyond the statute by modifying actively engaged rules, complicating spousal eligibility and requiring producers to authorize IRS to release information to USDA in implementing key payment eligibility provisions,” Smith told the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.

“For cotton growers, good farm policy is of little value if commercial-size farming operations are ineligible for benefits. Frankly, the statutory changes combined with overzealous regulations have pushed us to the brink, and we will strongly oppose any further restrictions.”

Looking ahead to future policy, Smith acknowledged that the 2012 farm bill debate will take place with several new and increased points of pressure, including the record budget deficits.

“The WTO Brazil case puts cotton’s marketing loan and counter-cyclical programs under special scrutiny,” he noted. “While we are relieved that U.S. negotiators have been able to put together an interim agreement that has convinced Brazil to suspend retaliation against nearly $1 billion in U.S. exports, we know there are expectations about modifications to the cotton program as part of the 2012 farm bill.”

Smith stated that the U.S. cotton industry has initiated internal policy deliberations with the appointment of a farm policy task force and is prepared to work with Congress to address the challenges faced in the writing of the 2012 farm bill.

He also noted that development of the 2012 farm bill must consider the competitive balance between commodities due to both farm and energy policies.

To see Smith’s complete testimony, go to www.cotton.org.

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