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Lincoln: Sooner rather than later...

Senator pushes passage of 2001 crop disaster aid If Sen. Blanche Lincoln has her way, Congress will pass a supplemental appropriations bill that includes an additional Agricultural Market Transition Act payment for the 2001 crop year sooner rather than later in this legislative session.

"I have already been talking to some of my colleagues on the Senate Ag Committee as well as members of the Appropriations Committee about another disaster package to prevent market loss during 2001," she said in a speech at the National Cotton Council's annual meeting in San Diego.

"The response I've been receiving so far has been positive, and I'm hopeful that Congress will pass a supplemental appropriations bill early this year that includes an additional AMTA payment."

The Arkansas Democrat said she is supporting a supplemental AMTA payment that, at the least, would be equal to last year's supplemental payment, which was made at 1999 rates - 5.1 cents per pound for cotton. Under the 1996 FAIR Act, the 2001 AMTA payment is scheduled to collect on any legitimate losses."

In the case a claim is made, farmers should be ready to show any production expense receipts that are requested. For those farmers insuring irrigated cotton acreage under a transition yield average, it may be even more important to document irrigation expenses.

"If you have a claim, you may be asked to provide proof that you operated irrigation wells, purchased plastic pipe, or paid for the diesel or electricity required to run pumps," he says.

In addition, Dunn cautions growers against switching massive amounts of their row crop acreage to cotton if they are not set up for, and do not have the harvest capabilities to handle the amount of acreage being considered. "Farmers need to be sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that they have the capability to plant, raise and harvest that cotton crop they are insuring. The fact that the custom harvester was a no-show is not cause for an insurance claim."

"Crop insurance was never, ever designed to take the place of the market providing a fair price for a farmer's crop. But, everybody needs to understand that the problem we have in farming right now is that there is not a single commodity we can plant in the Delta that will even offer a breakeven scenario to growers in the 2001 crop year," he says.

"It's not that people desire all of a sudden to get back in the cotton business. It's that the price of soybeans, corn, wheat, rice and milo are all in the tank and we are operating under a bill called Freedom to Farm. There's not one single crop that will pencil out to cover even a farmer's input costs. Looking at all of the other alternatives, cotton is the only crop that can allow a grower to break even, and that's only if he controls his production expenses," Dunn says.

"Insurance was not meant to be the guiding rule for a farmer's planting decisions, but under the current circumstances, farmers aren't left with many options," he says. "This is a crazy world we are in, and it is no longer a domestic market. It is a world market, and we not only have to look at the planting intentions of the Delta, but what's being planted in China, and Korea and Thailand."

He adds, "Farmers are really between a rock and a hard place. Every time it seems as if the price of a commodity is moving upward, it turns out that somebody, somewhere forget to count production numbers and when they magically find that production, it turns that market the other way."

To report suspected fraud or abuse of the federal crop insurance program or any other USDA program, call 800-424-9121. Your call to the inspector general's hotline for agriculture can be made anonymously.

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