Continuing to encourage the USDA to consider cottonseed as an “other oilseed” remains a top priority for the National Cotton Council for the remainder of 2016 and into next year, says Reece Langley, NCC vice president for Washington affairs, who spoke at the recent American Cotton Producers/Cotton Foundation joint meeting at Lubbock, Texas,
Other priorities include continued funding for boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs, market development through Cotton Council International, maintaining adequate funding for the USDA ginning laboratories, and urging Congress not to consider any amendments that would harm the farm bill.
Some good news from that list is increased funding — $1.5 million — for the ginning labs.
On trade, Langley says Turkey’s anti-dumping claim, which resulted in sanctions against U.S. cotton, is another issue for the council. Under a ruling by Turkish courts, Turkey is allowed to impose a 3 percent tariff on all U.S. cotton, an action that has resulted in a 7 percent to 10 percent market share loss since the anti-dumping decision. “We will continue to monitor our trade with Turkey,” he says.
Pursuing the issue through the World Trade Organization may offer a chance for the court decision to be overturned. But he’s not optimistic. “It’s a lengthy process, and overturning the domestic courts in Turkey is unlikely.”
The council also keeps tabs on WTO activities. “Cotton continues to be a focus of their sessions,” Langley says. “We continue to encourage U.S. trade officials to defend U.S. cotton interests. We’re pressing our trade representatives to focus on China and India to make certain they are held responsible for transparency and accountability.”
A “significant number of regulatory issues by the EPA” remain a council priority, he says, including timely approval of new traits and chemistries for the 2017 growing season. Dicamba and Enlist Duo are among the new technologies the council is monitoring.
Honey bees/pollinators remain a hot button issue, and Langley says the council is working with all stakeholders to find effective ways to protect these insects. “We are urging states to develop pollinator protection plans, which should be producer-driven.”
The council has been busy in recent months with the ginning cost share program that was approved by the USDA to provide financial assistance to the struggling cotton industry. “We have been fortunate that the Secretary of Agriculture worked to get this program in place in a timely manner,” he says. The USDA will seek more funding for the program, which is a common procedure, he says.
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“We also have a federal GMO labeling bill, passed by both houses and signed into law by President Obama. Now, the USDA will be tasked with the rule-making process, which could take two years.”
Langley expects little activity on agriculture appropriations before the November elections, but says a continuing resolution could be passed in September to run into early December. “It could even run into next spring or summer.”
Appropriations occupies a top spot on the list of activities the council is monitoring because those bills could affect the likelihood of getting cottonseed designated as an “other oilseed” and covered under the Agriculture Act of 2014. “The election will influence the decision on continuing resolutions.”
The elections also mean the council will gear up to educate new lawmakers when they take office next January. With a significant number leaving office and numerous seats open this year, the council is expecting new faces on the agriculture committees and other key committees that affect farm and ranch interests.
Finally, council leaders are already working with Congress on discussions of the next farm bill.