The cotton industry’s collective resources through the National Cotton Council have been effectively applied to an array of priority issues this past year, Jay Hardwick, the organization’s chairman, said at the 2010 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans.
“The council continued its tradition of being a tireless advocate for the U.S. cotton industry,” he said.
Among the issues were farm bill implementation, trade, emergency disaster assistance and a number of pressing technical issues.
Regarding farm bill implementation, Hardwick, a Louisiana cotton producer, said the farm bill’s final passage came after more than two years of hard work, with pleasing results.
“We were able to maintain the general structure of the cotton program while instituting a more accurate world price formula and providing assistance for the domestic textile industry,” he said. “Storage credits were also continued.”
Hardwick said the new farm law includes:
—Significant changes in program eligibility and payment limits.
—Direct attribution and no three-entity rule.
—Expanded spouse eligibility.
—Removal of limits on marketing loan gains and loan deficiency payments.
—Means tests on farm and non-farm income.
The council “was very disappointed,” he said, that USDA’s rules included significant changes to the provisions determining a person “actively engaged in farming,” and submitted extensive comments regarding the proposed rules.
In response to the comments, USDA recently announced finalization of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Internal Revenue Service to establish an electronic information exchange process for verifying compliance with adjusted gross income eligibility provisions for farm program and conservation program benefits.
Hardwick said the council will monitor this USDA-IRS process that will evaluate program participants’ compliance with the adjusted gross income provisions.
The USDA also announced a less restrictive interpretation of the labor and management provisions of the actively engaged requirements for some entities for 2010, he noted. For operations where the total direct payments do not exceed $40,000, only stockholders that have at least 50 percent interest in the legal entity have to make a significant contribution of active personal labor or management. Otherwise, the council believes the eligibility regulations for 2010 will be unchanged.
Hardwick also reiterated the industry’s appreciation of congressional efforts led by Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., to insure that regulatory changes for 2010 would not further undermine producers’ abilities to fully participate in farm programs.
Regarding congressional appropriations, Hardwick noted that the council worked to secure funding for the industry’s priority programs, including continuation of the cost share for the boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs, additional support for the Farm Services Agency, funding for the Foreign Agricultural Service to carry out its important export market work, and increased support for the USDA ginning laboratories.
“In addition, during the appropriations markup for fiscal 2010, the council worked with key congressional leaders and other agricultural groups to insure that there would be no provisions included that would result in amendments to the current farm bill.”
The council believes, Hardwick said, that “the 2008 law is a good farm bill, but we are continuing to work for fair implementation of the commodity and conservation provisions in a manner that is consistent with the statute and congressional intent, and in recognition of the already extensive and far-reaching reforms to program eligibility and payment limitations that were included in the bill.”