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Articles from 2007 In June

Report: Ag Exports Reach Record in 2006

A new USDA report shows that U.S. agricultural exports reached a new record in 2006 at $68.7 billion - $6.2 billion more than the previous record in 2005.

The top exporting states were California, Iowa, Texas and Illinois, the same as last year. Nebraska and Kansas moved ahead of Minnesota for the fifth and sixth spots, and North Carolina overtook North Dakota for ninth.

Feed grain exports became the largest export commodity in value at $8.7 billion, growing by $2 billion from 2005. Corn exports were up 25% in volume from the year before. Soybeans and soy products dropped to the second largest export value at $8.3 billion, about a 6% drop, while wheat and products were up 5% to $6.2 billion.

California continued to lead comfortably in vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, seeds, and dairy products.

Beef and veal exports are still around half the 2003 level, but rose 70% from 2005.

U.S. Ag Exports Rise in 2006

A new USDA report shows that U.S. agricultural exports reached a new record in 2006 at $68.7 billion - $6.2 billion more than the previous record in 2005.

The top exporting states were California, Iowa, Texas and Illinois, the same as last year. Nebraska and Kansas moved ahead of Minnesota for the fifth and sixth spots, and North Carolina overtook North Dakota for ninth.

Feed grain exports became the largest export commodity in value at $8.7 billion, growing by $2 billion from 2005. Corn exports were up 25% in volume from the year before. Soybeans and soy products dropped to the second largest export value at $8.3 billion, about a 6% drop, while wheat and products were up 5% to $6.2 billion.

California continued to lead comfortably in vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, seeds, and dairy products.

Beef and veal exports are still around half the 2003 level, but rose 70% from 2005.

Johanns Speaks for Trade Promotion Authority

President Bush's Trade Promotion Authority, which allows trade deals negotiated by the administration to pass through Congress with an up-or-down vote, is set to expire unless Congress renews it. Without TPA, the administration will have a considerably more difficult time passing free trade agreements, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a statement Friday.

"Since Trade Promotion Authority was last authorized in 2002, U.S. agricultural exports have grown from $53.1 billion to $68.7 billion in 2006," he says. " Removing trade barriers and lowering tariffs will create new export opportunities for American farmers and ranchers in a fast-moving and growing world marketplace."

"We cannot cede our global leadership position by unilaterally tying our hands at the trade negotiating table, while our competitors secure agreements that give them better market access and put U.S. exporters at a disadvantage."

BASF and Monsanto Partner for Trait Promotion

BASF Corporation and Monsanto Company announced a co-promotional agreement today that will see each partner's sales force promote Headline fungicide from BASF.

"We're seeing a lot of momentum for Headline fungicide driven by outstanding results from growers who applied Headline last year," says Markus Heldt, BASF Group Vice President for North America.

The agreement covers marketing to corn and soybean growers nationally. Monsanto says the deal will help it enhance yields through disease protection through the complimentary use of seed traits and fungicides.

Under the agreement, Headline will be promoted in Monsanto's Roundup Rewards program.

Farmers deserve our thanks, not criticism

“Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalized.”

Those were the words of President John F. Kennedy, and they still ring true.

All too often you can open a newspaper to at least one article attacking the American farmer and condemning the policies enacted to ensure America maintains the world's most affordable, abundant and safe food supply.

Farmers and ranchers are the lifeblood of this country. In addition to feeding and clothing us — no small feat considering the world's population will reach 8 billion by 2025 — they are an economic engine we all depend on.

American agriculture generates approximately 20 percent of this country's Gross Domestic Product and employs 17 percent of its workforce. At a time when the U.S. trade deficit is reaching record highs, the United States retains a trade surplus in agricultural products. At a time when our dependency on foreign oil has never been greater, agriculture provides fuel for our automobiles. Farm and range lands are home to three-quarters of the nation's wildlife.

The positive impact is felt far beyond the farm. American shoppers spend less of their incomes on groceries than shoppers from any other country in the world.

We have all witnessed the repercussions of heavy dependency on foreign sources for oil. We would be remiss to become equally dependent on foreign sources for food. Regardless of the number of farmers in your state, the importance of farm policy to every family in the country becomes clearer with every report about China's food safety issues.

It perplexes me that anyone would want to weaken the policies that helped create the success story which is American agriculture.

Rather than spend time recounting the misinformation used by farm critics, I'll highlight things they won't tell you.

Critics will never mention that farm programs have come in approximately $25 billion under budget since the 2002 farm bill was enacted.

They also will gloss over the fact that every nation around the world subsidizes its farmers and many do so at much higher levels than the United States. Former U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman routinely noted that agriculture is the most heavily distorted economic market in the world.

Critics won't mention that foreign tariff levels, discriminatory sanitary/phytosanitary regulations, and discriminatory foreign state-trading enterprises exclude U.S. agriculture products from many markets around the world. Critics won't mention that conversely the United States is more open to foreign agriculture imports than any other nation with an established agricultural sector. Our bound tariff levels on foreign agriculture goods average 12 percent. Critics won't mention that U.S. farmers face average bound tariffs levels five times higher at 62 percent.

Critics also won't mention that, in the midst of trade negotiations to address these inequities in the global marketplace, proposals currently on the table would unilaterally disarm American farmers and ranchers and do nothing to level the lopsided playing field they face.

Finally, critics won't tell you that the farm safety net accounts for less than 0.3 percent of the federal budget. Considering it ensures a safe and abundant food supply produced right here in America, that seems like a very wise use of federal dollars.

As the 2007 farm bill wends through the Senate, it is my intention to make sure American farmers and ranchers are not unilaterally disarmed. I will strive to ensure they have a strong safety net so they can build upon U.S. agriculture's many successes.

The farm bill represents a critical connection between farming, environmental stewardship, and nutrition for the world's people. I am proud of our farm families and what they provide. And I am proud that our farm policy represents a commitment to these hard-working Americans.

Like every policy crafted in Washington, the farm bill should be thoroughly debated. But during that debate, we must be careful not to attack the men and women who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs. I will take every opportunity to tell my colleagues about the enormous contributions our farm families make and the need to provide them with a modest level of support in an increasingly uncertain global marketplace.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., serves as the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support and the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade and Global Competitiveness.

House ag subcommittee votes to extend current farm law

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities caught most of the agriculture community by surprise when it approved a five-year extension of the 2002 law during a mark-up session for the commodity title of the new farm bill.

Subcommittee leaders approved some amendments and promised more changes to the legislation, but its members' refusal to make more than simple alterations drew howls of protests from conservation and environmental groups that had been demanding a major overhaul of the farm bill.

Later, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson issued a statement defending the subcommittee's action and promising to continue to work on new proposals when the full committee takes up the farm bill after the July 4 recess.

“The proposals approved today by the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management reflect the message we heard loud and clear from farmers and ranchers nationwide — the structure of the 2002 farm bill works for them,” said Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat.

“We will continue to develop proposals on rebalancing and reform in farm programs that will build on this good foundation as we move forward. The Agriculture Committee has a tough job ahead, but I am committed to continuing a process that is open and allows for a complete debate of all the important issues involved in writing a farm bill.”

Both Peterson and General Farm Commodities Subcommittee Chairman Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., had offered a lengthy list of changes for the commodity title that would have reduced the marketing loan rates for cotton, corn and grain sorghum by 2 cents per pound and per bushel, increased target prices for soybeans and wheat and required direct attribution for farm program payments.

But Etheridge announced during a mark-up session for the farm bill's commodity title June 19 he was bringing up an amendment that was a “pure extension of the 2002 farm bill.”

Other committee members who had planned to make additional changes in the current law, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, lined up in support of Etheridge's amendment.

“As I indicated in my opening statement, I have had a desire for some time to do something in addition to extending the current farm bill,” said Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., ranking member on the subcommittee. “I have thought from the beginning it was not a matter of turning this over to the WTO to determine what farm policy should be in the United States.

“But I think that because of the budget circumstance we find ourselves in, an extension of the current farm bill is the best outcome for the farmers, ranchers and consumers in this country. I clearly believe the current farm bill is good farm policy. I voted for it, and I supported it.”

Etheridge said the extension will help the subcommittee meet its goal of preserving the safety net for farmers that was restored when Congress passed the 2002 farm bill. He and other members said the safety net was lost with the passage of the 1996 freedom to farm bill.

“Every member on the subcommittee is sincerely interested in improving the safety net for our nation's hard-working farmers,” said Etheridge. “Our challenge is to accomplish that goal with a smaller baseline and without any new resources. As we move to the full committee we will continue to strengthen the safety net to ensure that farmers can provide a plentiful food supply for the American family's table.”

Moran said he wished the subcommittee could do more to make improvements in the 2002 farm bill. But the budget provided the committee — which includes a 58 percent reduction in the baseline for the commodity title — makes an extension of the current law the better option.

“When we passed the 2002 farm bill, we were successful in increasing the baseline over the previous farm bill by $40 billion to $50 billion,” he said. “This year we're presented with a reduction in the baseline of $60 billion.”

Farm organizations were divided in their reaction to the vote with the National Cotton Council and USA Rice Federation supportive of the move. The National Corn Growers Association and conservation groups such as American Farmland Trust were generally negative.

Some of the strongest criticism of the vote came from Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, which recently unveiled the names of 350,000 previously unidentified farm program payment recipients on its Web site.

“Today, the House subcommittee with responsibility for federal crop subsidy policy voted to extend for another five years the very same unfair, dysfunctional subsidy policies that were put in place by the widely discredited 2002 farm bill,” said Cook.

“The vote is Exhibit A in the case for not letting farm subsidy policies be decided by the subsidized. The subcommittee asked itself: Is the current inequitable crop subsidy system the best that we can do with billions of dollars of taxpayer' money? And the subcommittee answered unanimously: ‘Yup!’”

The Environmental Defense's Scott Faber also blasted the subcommittee both in a statement and in a new blog he said he plans to issue periodically to share his opinions on the 2007 farm bill.

Faber, director of the Environmental Defense Farm and Food Policy Campaign, is a supporter of legislation introduced by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., which would replace the current three-pronged, direct and counter-cyclical payment and marketing assistance program with a managed savings account approach.

The subcommittee voted to reject the Kind-Flake amendment along with a farm program buyout proposal offered by CitiGroup Corp., and the Bush administration's USDA farm bill language.

“I have talked to numerous farmers in my district in Kansas, and there is no support for any of these proposals,” said Rep. Nancy Boyda, a Democrat. “Questions have also been raised about the impact of a farm program buyout on tenant farmers, young farmers, farmers who elect not to participate and on the health of the rural economy.”

Etheridge told Deputy Agriculture Secretary Charles Conner, who attended the subcommittee business meeting, that USDA “hasn't convinced the American farmer that you have the right idea for agriculture” in its farm bill proposal.

National Cotton Council leaders were pleased the subcommittee voted to reject the preliminary discussion draft its staff circulated before the June 19 meeting. The draft included provisions that would have reduced the base loan to 50 cents, the target price to 70 cents and imposed direct attribution on direct and counter-cyclical payments.

After it approved Etheridge's amendment to extend the current law, the subcommittee then adopted an amendment by Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., that contained a majority of the recommendations adopted by the National Cotton Council's board of directors to make U.S. cotton more competitive in world markets.

The provisions require USDA to establish loan premiums and discounts for the 2008 and subsequent crops using spot market data weighted by production; to modify the calculation of the weekly AWP to more accurately reflect the competitive environment; and, provide a competitiveness payment to domestic mills for all upland cotton consumed.

Under the provisions of the subcommittee bill, the upland cotton program for 2008 and subsequent crops would include a 52-cent base loan; a 6.67-cent direct payment; and 68.61-cent target price. The payment base and yield used for direct and counter-cyclical payments are unchanged. Payment limitations are unchanged and the extra long staple program is extended in its entirety.

“The original draft wrongly isolated cotton by attacking loan rates and target prices,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, a subcommittee member. “I have previously stated that any attempt to isolate one commodity is unacceptable. Cotton should not be unfairly singled out and made a poster child for reform.”

Instead, he said, the committee and Congress need to construct farm policy that provides both stability and predictability while accurately reflecting the needs for all farmers in Texas and across the nation.

“The 2002 farm bill has provided an effective and efficient safety net for agriculture over the last several years,” he said. “We must allow our farmers to continue to provide American consumers with the most abundant and affordable food and fiber supply in the world.”

In Louisiana Corn harvest could begin in mid-July

In mid-May, Keith Morris was driving Highway 4 in northeast Louisiana, between Winnsboro and St. Joseph. On the phone with his wife, Morris — who did his graduate work at Purdue in Indiana — had a sudden realization.

“It just hit me. I told her, ‘If I didn't know better, I'd promise I was in Indiana. This wall-to-wall corn is amazing.’”

And the task of harvesting such a large crop promises to be difficult. Both LSU AgCenter agricultural engineers, Morris and colleague Roberto Barbosa are helping prepare producers.

“There are a lot of inexperienced corn farmers this year,” says Barbosa. “Some haven't even been around a corn harvest. It would be a tragedy for anyone to take good care of his corn and then not harvest it well.”

Morris says it's hard to recommend long-term solutions because “we don't know how long this corn acreage spurt will last here. Does a farmer really want to buy bins based on the current situation?”

For anyone planning to buy a combine, “the main focus should be to set it up correctly to harvest corn. The set up isn't necessarily difficult, but it isn't something that takes two minutes and no prep, either. No one wants to leave any of the corn crop on the ground or falling out the back of the machine.”

Up front and proper maintenance of any machine is also crucial. “I assume most farmers looking at a corn combine will probably be looking at used machines first. That's what I've seen in the last year — lots of formerly leased machines are coming down here from the Midwest.”

Midwest farmers often lease combines for a year or two before turning them back in.

“Those combines are usually sold and some are ending up in the Mid-South. The leased machines are usually fairly well maintained. But they do need a maintenance going-over before harvest season.”

Louisiana's mid-June, dryland corn crop is “really beginning to concern me,” says David Lanclos, LSU AgCenter corn specialist. “We're not in nearly as bad a situation as Mississippi's dryland corn is in. But our dryland acres are headed south in a rapid manner.”

Until a week into June, most of Louisiana had adequate moisture. In some areas of the state, “producers haven't had to roll pipe or irrigate as much as they usually do. The last two weeks, though, that's changed and there will be yield ramifications.”

Louisiana corn is approaching dent and so water and food is still going into the kernels. That means, roughly, the crop needs 1 inch to 1.5 inches of water per week.

“Water makes grain and without grain the combines won't fill up as fast,” says Lanclos. “Dryland corn certainly isn't getting what it needs.

“Fortunately, most of our irrigated corn is getting close to enough moisture — although not 1.5 inches of water. There are plenty of producers irrigating every day to keep up.”

Any ramifications for the harvest?

“Not except for pushing the harvest up even more. There's plenty of speculation that combines could be running as early as July 15. Folks are saying this 105-day corn could be cut as early as then. Although those situations may be isolated, I don't doubt it could happen.”

Coming into harvest, storage is chief among front-burner issues.

“Everyone is worried about what will happen if the crop comes in all at once,” says Barbosa. “Where will it go?”

“Obviously, growers won't be putting it all in grain bins,” says Morris. “We just don't have the storage space. And it isn't easing up. According to reports and folks I've spoken with, several grain bin companies are several months behind on delivery.”

In the past, when storage ran out in the Midwest, elevators would pile grain on a concrete slab beside the mill.

“That works okay there because the weather gets cold relatively early. In the South, though, piling the grain on the ground isn't a good option. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there are many good options. But if we do that down here, it will surely mean the corn will be damaged.”

Both engineers agree with Lanclos' prediction of an early harvest.

“There's no doubt this crop will come off early,” says Morris. “And if this lack of rain continues, some parts of the state might as well come off now. It's extremely dry in some of the northeast, including around St. Joseph. It may not be as critical around Winnsboro.

“Regardless, some of our corn is suffering and will come out of the field early. But our planting season is so early, too. We can begin planting here in March or, in extreme cases, in late February.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, farmers don't usually get their corn planted until late April or early May. Their crop is harvested in September/October.”

And a lot of times in Indiana, farmers wait for cold weather to dry corn down. Mid-South producers don't have that option.

“While our crop will likely come off early, it'll be at higher moisture. That's another issue that Mid-South producers have to deal with: how to get the moisture down enough to store the grain.”

The LSU AgCenter colleagues say there's much interest in large, in-field storage bags often used in South America.

“I can't say those bags are the right or wrong move,” says Lanclos. “I have no experience with them to draw on. My major concern with the on-farm storage bags is how they'll stand up to wild animals: feral hogs, deer, coons. And if moisture or oxygen get into the bags, that could be trouble too.”

The bags could be a “short-term solution or reprieve. But plenty of farmers are saying elevator space is too tight and these bags are their only option. There is rumbling that the elevators will have a tough time finding space for all this corn.”

Lanclos believes with the staggered maturity and planting dates, the Louisiana corn harvest season will be “very long. Normally, we won't have such a lengthy season. If that materializes, maybe it'll be a saving grace — things won't get backed up so quickly. Still, there'll be a two-week or three-week period when most corn comes off. That will be the most hectic during harvest.”

Last year, barge traffic had a difficult time in low rivers.

“Right now, the rivers are up. All you have to do is drive over the Mississippi or the Red to see that. Folks in northeast Louisiana say if barge traffic runs adequately and the rail traffic performs satisfactorily, they're confident most of the corn can be moved out in a timely fashion.”

No one wants a nightmare where we're dumping corn on the ground everywhere. That may be necessary temporarily at peak harvest but not for a long time.

Merger naysayers: long-term hit to farmers

When the proposed mega-merger of Monsanto and D&PL was put before the U.S. Department of Justice nearly a year ago, there was little doubt charges of monopoly and market anti-competitiveness would follow.

Indeed, those claims came. And after the DOJ's May 31 decision to allow the merger, the charges haven't calmed.

“This is a disappointing development in merger enforcement,” says Diana Moss, vice president of the non-profit Antitrust Institute. “We think the DOJ had a strong complaint and competitive impact statement. But their remedy is very weak and inadequate.

“They're selling off Stoneville and some D&PL germplasm assets to Bayer. And to effectively compete with D&PL in the Mid-South and Southeast cotton markets, you'll need a vertically integrated, established platform. That would be all the way from the genetic trait development to delivery of the finished seed.”

Moss says the institute doesn't see the remedy as creating that situation for Bayer. “Bayer has little, or no, experience in those markets and they're a tiny player in genetic traits development. The germplasm lines being divested are either experimental or not planted much in the Mid-South and Southeast.”

The DOJ should never have allowed the merger, insists Bill Freese.

“The remedies they propose won't ensure competition,” says the analyst with the Center for Food Safety. “With Bayer buying Stoneville, there will be two companies controlling over 90 percent of the cottonseed. We've gone from an oligarchy to a duopoly. There will definitely be higher concentration in an already highly concentrated industry.”

The merger will result in a situation where “farmers have fewer choices and seed prices continue to rise. Now, there are two behemoths in the cottonseed industry.”

The DOJ “made a big deal” about making D&PL divest 20 cotton lines, says Freese. “What they did was create ‘enhanced’ Stoneville assets. So the divestment included not only Stoneville, but they also threw in 20 cottonseed lines from D&PL. That was supposedly significant, but 12 of the 20 varieties are experimentals. We don't know if they'll be competitive. And of those varieties, eight have been sold and account for less than 2 percent of the cotton planting in 2006.”

Freese says take away the legal squabbles and hand wringing and “at the end of the day, Monsanto is now the biggest cottonseed company in the world. I hope everyone understands this will consolidate their monopoly in cottonseed.”

And then there's DuPont, a company extremely displeased with the merger. Was DuPont frozen out of the merger deal?

“Since the proposed merger was first announced, we've been on-the-record opposed,” says Doyle Karr, DuPont spokesperson. “That was because we feel it would very anticompetitive and would be a disservice to farmers and, ultimately, consumers. Throughout the process that's been our position.”

Now that the DOJ has allowed the deal to proceed with remedies, “we still believe it's anticompetitive,” says Karr. “Even with the remedies proposed it's bad for farmers.”

Karr admits DuPont is looking at options to block the merger in court.

“The way this works is, if the DOJ wanted to stop the merger deal they'd have sued to block. Often, if the DOJ takes that option, the companies involved will simply say, ‘Enough. We'll drop this because the uphill battle isn't worth the trouble.’ And that's along the lines of what happened the first time Monsanto tried to merge with D&PL.”

Karr says just because the DOJ hasn't chosen to sue to block doesn't mean other entities can't. “That's why we're looking at this seriously.”

If DuPont files suit would the goal be to kill the merger or force new remedies the company would be satisfied with?

“It's hard to speculate. Our basic argument is that when you take a company with a very high, dominant market share in biotechnology traits combined with another company with a very high, single-crop market share it will limit competition. It can't help but limit it and make it very difficult to stay in the market.”

And, ultimately, farmers will pay the price, warns Karr. “That won't be in the near-term — not something farmers will see tomorrow — but, over time, believe me, they'll be asking, ‘Why don't we have more options?’ And the answer will be ‘because there's no competition.’

“Competition is a very good thing for any consumer. Lack of it means you may see some good things in the short run. But in the long term you're missing out because of higher prices and no competition pushing research to the next level.

“When you look at where farmers sit with seed and input traits, they need to ask about competition and what this deal will mean in the long run. Ask questions!”

Like Moss, Karr says DuPont agrees with much of what the DOJ articulated on the situation in its ruling. But the proposed remedies “are seriously lacking in resolving the anti-competitive aspects of the acquisition.”

Under the Tunney Act, a 60-day comment period on the merger is now open. All interviewed suggest concerned farmers contact the DOJ, their state attorneys general and politicians.

“It is extremely important to know that the most critical voice in all this is the farmer's,” says Karr. “There is a short time frame here, but if they're worried about this deal, they need to let these officials know what they think.”

For more merger coverage, see

Farm policy experts vent frustration over extension vote

Ken Cook was livid. You could almost see the anger dripping off the page as the Environmental Working Group president ripped into a House subcommittee for rejecting stricter payment limits.

The object of Cook's ire — and that of other Beltway farm policy “experts” — was a June 19 vote by the House General Farm Commodities Subcommittee to extend the commodity title of the current farm bill for five years.

What really set Cook and the Environmental Defense's Scott Faber and others off was the subcommittee's refusal to adopt new payment limit language or other legislation that would radically overhaul farm programs when it marked up the commodity title on June 19.

Moments after the subcommittee vote, Cook issued a press release slamming the subcommittee for voting to extend what he termed the “unfair, dysfunctional” farm subsidies in the 2002 farm bill.

“The subcommittee couldn't even bring itself to protect taxpayers by tightening limits on federal payments to the largest, wealthiest subsidized farming operations in the country,” said Cook, whose EWG has posted thousands of names of farm program recipients on the Internet.

Cook noted the districts represented by the 18 members on the subcommittee received $8.2 billion in crop subsidies from 2003 to 2005. (In his new blog, “The Ruminant,” Faber put the total at more than $10 billion.)

Faber called the vote “about as surprising as mold growing in a wet basement, and suggested subcommittee members might like to give their farmers freedom to farm the treasury, a reference to comparisons of an amendment authored by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to Freedom to Farm.

In his weekly telephone new conference, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson took the venting by Cook, Faber and others in stride.

Asked about the subcommittee's decision to scrub an overhaul of the bill, Peterson said it came down to two words: “payment limits.” The language in the discussion draft was more than they could stomach,” he said.

“I think the subcommittee sent a resounding message to the reformers that they're not ready to go there yet,” he said, adding he thinks it's disingenuous for them to keep beating up cotton and rice farmers over big payments.

“A lot of the big numbers are because of commodity certificates,” he said. “The Ron Kinds of the world are the ones who should be blamed for this, not the farmers. They're the ones who voted for trade agreements that allowed the U.S. textile industry to move to China.”

Cotton farmers are making adjustments and switching to corn, he said. But Congress needs to maintain the ability for growers to transition to other opportunities to maintain the ability to produce food in this country.

“If the Ron Kinds and the other reformers are successful, what they will do, in my opinion, is destroy production agriculture,” he said. “We can't afford to lose these farmers, and that's what could happen if people pushing these reforms have their way.”

USDA program offers hay and pasture relief

Citing ongoing dry conditions and a rainfall deficit affecting Tennessee, officials with the USDA's Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service are reminding producers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program that with a modification to conservation plans, certain CRP stands established to permanent grasses (cool-season and native warm-season grasses) can be cut for hay or grazed. Most eligible areas for managed haying and grazing are land that was enrolled in a general signup.

Beginning July 2, participants who have received written permission can hay or graze CRP stands. According to Gregg Brann, NRCS grazing lands specialist, “Native grasses will be an excellent source of hay during this drought. Due to deep rooting of natives, they will be more vegetative and higher quality than other forages that have dried up.

“It is important to harvest native grasses as soon as possible after the July 2 date. The ideal height to harvest natives for hay is 30 inches or when the first seedhead appears.

“My calculations show if CRP yields 4 tons per acre and half of the hay is given to the contract harvester for cutting, raking, and rolling the hay, the producer would still have four rolls of hay for a cost of only $4 per roll.”

CRP participants can have the next annual payment reduced by only 25-percent for acres hayed or grazed this summer. Hay harvested under the managed haying option can be sold, offering an attractive financial incentive considering recently reported hay shortages and potential worsening conditions.

Haying or grazing is allowed only once every three years on the same acreage.

Mike Hansbrough, NRCS private lands biologist, says, “Most native warm-season grass stands have become too thick for many species of wildlife. Removal of this grass with only one cutting will make the stands better for wildlife in the long term.”

In the case of native warm-season grasses, landowners can expect 30 inches or more of regrowth within a couple of months, providing wildlife cover later this summer and into fall and winter.

CRP continuous buffer strips, generally established in more sensitive areas, are not eligible for this haying or grazing option.

For more information about the Conservation Reserve Program, contact your nearest USDA Service Center, or visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service Web site at and look for CRP under Programs or the Farm Services.