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Articles from 2002 In July


Western senators author disaster bill

The Emergency Agricultural Assistance Act of 2002, S-2800, would provide up to $5 billion in aid to all farmers who suffered crop losses due to weather or other natural disasters in 2001 or 2002.

In introducing the bill, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said meteorological studies show that some areas of his state of South Dakota are now more drought-stricken than they were at the height of the depression in 1936 because of the ongoing lack of rain in the West.

“As the situation worsens, so does the need for a bigger response,” he told reporters during his weekly press briefing, referring to earlier bills that sought less funding.

Daschle’s legislation is the latest in a series of attempts to pass new disaster assistance dating back to last fall when Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., also a sponsor of S-2800, sought unsuccessfully to add $2.8 billion in emergency assistance provision to a supplemental appropriations bill.

Sources say the Congressional Budget Office estimates the crop loss provisions of S-2800 would cost $3.8 billion and the livestock assistance provisions could run as high as $1.2 billion.

Because the legislation asks for an emergency declaration, the spending would not have to be offset by reductions in other programs.

Shortly after the introduction of S-2800, 20 farm organizations sent a letter to the Senate urging that its members support passage of the legislation that was also introduced by Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

The National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation and most of the major commodity organizations, including the National Cotton Council, signed the letter. The NCC said it supports the disaster legislation if it does not require any modifications to the new farm bill.

According to a summary, the bill would provide disaster assistance to farmers who experienced losses in yield and quality due to severe weather, pests and diseases in 2001 and 2002.

It would waive a provision in the Federal Crop Insurance Act prohibiting emergency disaster assistance and directs the secretary of agriculture to make emergency financial assistance available from Commodity Credit Corp. funding.

The legislation establishes the same loss threshold as used in previous legislation, which covered 2000 crop losses. The bill also makes funds available for livestock losses for 2001 and 2002 in any county that has received an emergency designation by the president or the secretary of agriculture.

Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has scheduled a mark-up session for the legislation on Thursday. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the committee’s ranking minority member, is expected to ask for offsets in the new farm bill to fund the new legislation.

Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have also introduced disaster assistance legislation that would provide $620 million for the Livestock Assistance Program. The cost of the Hagel-Enzi bill would be offset by spending reductions in the new farm bill.

And several House members from the Midwest have introduced legislation to provide emergency assistance to farmers who suffered crop losses in 2002. The CBO has scored the cost of their bill at $2.4 billion.

Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., one of the authors of the House bill, said that funding for the emergency assistance bill could be taken from an estimated $6 billion that he said will not be spent on farm programs during the remaining two months of the 2002 fiscal year.

Aside from the Senate Ag Committee mark-up, Congress is not expected to take further action on disaster assistance legislation until it returns from recess in early September.

President Bush said earlier he was opposed to providing any added assistance to farmers above that provided in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The administration did not comment on the latest bill.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Vine mealybug hits more SJV grapes

The vine mealybug (VMB), Planococcus ficus, is a sucking insect found first in the Coachella Valley in 1994 and at several SJV sites by 1998. Although similar to the common, native grape mealybug found mainly on trunks and spurs, as well as clusters, the VMB is found throughout vines, including the roots.

VMB excretes great volumes of honeydew, which crystallize on vine parts, promote sooty mold growth, and damage fruit quality. Its crusty formations differentiate it from the more liquid honeydew of the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

With no preference by variety, the phloem-feeding VMB affects bud development the subsequent year, and losses have reached 30 percent on reduced-vigor vines.

Walt Bentley, University of California Extension entomologist at the Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier, says he’s getting more and more calls about VMB. "It’s been here around Fresno for a while, but we are beginning to see what could become a mushrooming situation.

"Of course, we’ve seen much of it on Thompson Seedless because it’s the variety with the greatest acreage. So far we have not detected it north of the San Joaquin River. We have seen it in table grapes in Tulare County and even in isolated, two-year-old plantings in San Luis Obispo County."

Controls work

After VMB appeared in the Coachella Valley, he recalled, table grape growers there controlled it with an intensive chemical program. By the mid-1990s it appeared in table grapes around Arvin, particularly in vineyards whose owners also had vineyards in the Coachella Valley. Kern County growers have gained control of it with Admire through drip or mini-sprinklers.

Bentley said he realizes many grape growers, particularly those making raisins, do not have the resources for such programs. "Even at the lowest rate, 16 ounces, Admire is going to run about $60 an acre, and we’ve found a single, 24-ounce application to be best."

In 1996 and 1997 it turned up in the Del Rey and Selma areas of Fresno County, and Bentley said, "we in UC Extension, working closely with the California Table Grape Commission, gave it a lot of play with newsletters and grower meetings."

Even so, he added, many more reports came in 2001, most from growers and PCAs who said they knew nothing about it. "The problem is it can be hard to detect early in the season. It can start in a corner of a vineyard and maybe the grower doesn’t pay much attention until it gets severe."

Although some practices for chemical controls were worked out in the Coachella Valley earlier, they ended with the death of UC entomologist Harry Shorey.

Before bud break

However, progress has been made since with chemicals Bentley said. Lorsban applied before bud break is very effective. Admire through drip from early May into early June has been successful, although on flood-irrigated vineyards, an irrigation must be made immediately following application to the soil.

The researchers French plowed along vine rows to expose roots, sprayed Admire on the soil, and put water on within two hours.

In insecticide trials they found that Lannate applied in early June will hold on the leaves for about three weeks and reduce, but not eliminate, VMB. Applaud, a growth regulator, has also been effective but for a shorter period.

"The key is to make an application beneath the vine canopy to reach the crown, the base of the canes, and where clusters are formed," he said.

Rocky Malakar-Kuenen, a post doctoral researcher at KAC, and others are trying now to integrate use of Admire with encouragement of Anagyrus wasps that parasitize VMB. They have seen up to 89 percent parasitism, but that’s in late September after the damage is already done.

The issue with the parasite is it only reaches VMB in exposed areas of vines. It doesn’t get under the bark. VMB also hides protected there from insecticide sprays, so the aim is to apply material to the exposed roots, or to the vine when adults move out onto the foliage.

All stages can be transmitted from vine to vine, but the flightless crawler, "bug" stage of VMB on windblown leaves is readily carried from infested vines to new hosts. Vineyard equipment also carries crawlers, particularly in raisin and wine varieties.

VMB pheromone

Bentley is optimistic that a VMB pheromone developed by UC, Davis entomologist Jocelyn Millar will be another tool. "The compound is stable and will last at least six weeks and will pull in flying males from a considerable distance. Traps with the pheromone will allow detection early in the season before damage occurs. It could also be useful for nurseries."

The pheromone is being tested this season and Bentley said he hopes growers can detect pockets of infestation early and then head-off any spread with the French-plow and Admire method or topical sprays of Lannate or Applaud.

On another front, the team is moving this season with use of the pheromone for mating disruption, seen as a potential biological answer for dealing with early concentrations of the pest.

For the moment, Bentley recommends that growers alert field workers to watch wetted areas of honeydew on the bark of vines. "You need to know that and deal with it immediately early in the season or mark the area at harvest. Because of the way VMB moves, you tend to see it on the edges of a vineyard first."

All machines that move from vineyard to vineyard, including harvesters, mechanical pruners, even rotary mowers, are potential vectors for the pest. He suggests that equipment working in an infested vineyard be steam cleaned or washed down with a 2 percent chlorine solution before it is used in a clean vineyard.

VMB also goes to palm, fig, pomegranate, and several ornamental plants. Although frost will kill it in the above-ground portions of the vine, it survives on the roots..

Row croppers return

Perhaps a positive sign for its future, New Holland now has a worthy replacement for the popular Genesis tractor line that it spun off and sold to Buhler Industries during the Case IH/New Holland merger.

We test-drove the new tractors at a recent New Holland press event held just outside of St. Louis to introduce these models.

New Holland TG series—170 to 240 PTO hp
Like the old Genesis, the new TG is operator friendly and features an 8.3-liter engine with up to 56% torque rise. The operator doesn't need to be a computer programmer to maximize this tractor’s performance. Even a new driver can shift easily through the gears and start and stop the tractor without jerking it around. There’s some clutch work required, but it’s minimal.

Paramount to its ease of operation is the TG’s 18-forward and 4 reverse speed power-shift transmission, which helps keep the engine in the 2,200-rpm sweet spot for maximum efficiency. An auto-shift button changes settings from fieldwork to 25-mph road speed with minimal fuss. A creeper gear package is also available for ultraslow field operations.

The in-cab feel and in-field performance are very similar to those of the Genesis. What’s different is that much of the TG's power train has been borrowed from its Case IH cousin, the new MX Magnum, including an updated electronically controlled engine that already meets Tier III emissions standards.

Comfort cab. The large cab features 109.5 cu. ft. of space and 68 sq. ft. of glass. All the instruments are easily accessible on the right armrest or on the right-hand corner post, where they won’t block the operator's view to the outside of the tractor. Standard equipment includes AC and an air-ride seat.

Deluxe option cabs offer heated seats, auto temperature control and six electrical outlets. As with the common-platform Case IH tractors, a deluxe Auto Comfort seat uses a precisely controlled electromagnetic field to dampen the bumps. An optional performance monitor shows acres covered, percent slip and service interval data.

The 255 and 285 models include fuel consumption and percent of power data. A New Holland field technician (they used to call these guys mechanics) can plug in and run a diagnostic check on all systems in a matter of seconds.

Tractor control. Though CNH licensed its patented SuperSteer front axle design to Buhler, it retained the technology as an option for New Holland tractors such as the TG. You won’t find SuperSteer in the Case version of this tractor. On the New Holland TG, the ultra-tight 70° turn angle lets a farmer simply make a U-turn and head back down the field with a 12-row implement. The standard 2-wd axle turns 55°, and the standared front wheel assost axle turns 50°.

The 210 and 230 TG models use a 10-bolt hub, and the 255 and 285 use a beefed-up 12-bolt hub. The 255 and 285 offer a front dual wheel option for improved flotation. A suspended FWD front axle option called Terra Glide allows 4 in. of travel to help keep the front tires on the ground. That improves control on the road and reduces power hop in the field.

Implement control. The electronic draft control hitch lifts up to 17,920 lbs. The 210 and 230 have a telescoping lower link, and the 255 and 285 offer a rigid lower link with coupler. Pulling at road speeds, the dynamic ride control option makes the 3-pt. hitch act as a shock absorber between implement and tractor for a smoother ride and better control.

One other New Holland-only option is the Mega-Flow hydraulic system, which boosts flow from 38 to 68 gpm at 3,000 psi. The system is divided into two circuits with separate pumps. Turning the steering wheel won’t rob the implement of power, so there’s always enough flow available to run specialty equipment, such as air seeders, at maximum efficiency.

The TG series consists of the TG210 (170 PTO hp), TG230 (190 PTO hp), TG255 (215 PTO hp) and the TG285 (240 PTO hp). Price: $109,256 to $132,085.

New Holland TM series—95 to 160 PTO hp
The smaller brothers to the TGs, the TM series tractors have a lot of the same technology and features that are on the TGs. Consequently, the tractors in this medium-horsepower range have a surprising level of sophistication.

The TM is powered by a new turbocharged and aftercooled 7.5-liter New Holland engine. Rotary-designed injection pumps deliver a precise amount of fuel to match engine airflow.

As with the TG models, a variety of "smart" programmable features, combined with a Power Command power-shift transmission, let you select the right gear automatically based on your desired engine speed, engine load and ground speed. This function improves usable power and fuel efficiency. A left-hand shuttle transmission allows fast shifting from forward to reverse with no clutching, making the TM tractors well suited for loader work.

Differential lock and fwd functions turn on and off automatically to accommodate tight headland turns. New Holland calls this electronic traction system TerraLock. The front and rear differential units stay locked for maximum traction but kick out automatically to prevent damage on tight turns. A touch pad lets the operator choose between manual and automatic operation of the differential locks.

One-button operation. The TM175 and TM190 include a Custom Headland System, which records up to 28 tasks, such as 3-pt. hitch raising and lowering, transmission shifting, engine rpms and cruise control engagement. The operator simply hits one button to complete multiple preprogrammed functions at the end of the row.

Suspension, Terra Glide, seat and in-cab amenities, and options for the TM are much the same as those in the bigger TG. The New Holland exclusive SuperSteer option is also available in both lines. A TM with SuperSteer can turn a tight, 22-ft.-dia. circle without pivot braking. The TM cab comes equipped with two cab doors, one on each side, for getting in and out quickly around the farmyard. The bigger TG has only one door, since it will do most of its work out in the field.

Overall, the TM’s maneuverability and power should make it a popular choice with livestock producers who need a loader and haying tractor that can also pitch in on some fieldwork. Big jobs like tillage and pulling big air seeders are best left to the TG. The TM series consists of the TM120 (95 PTO hp), TM130 (105 PTO hp), TM140 (115 PTO hp), TM155 (125 PTO hp), TM175 (145 PTO hp) and TM190 (160 PTO hp). Price: $54,600 to $98,600.

Contact New Holland North America Inc., 500 Diller Ave., Box 1895, New Holland PA 17577-0903, 717/355-1121, www.newholland.com.

Steep-incline conveyor

A new truck-unloading conveyor gently squeezes the grain between two belts to convey grain instead of using an auger with flighting. Eagle Concepts has applied for a patent on its unique Squeeze Belt Conveyer. Two crescent-top belts 16 in. wide compress the grain to prevent rollback so that the grain can be moved up steeper inclines. Company representative John Bohnker says the new conveyor will move grain at up to a 40° incline. Grain stops flowing in standard augers at 25° to 30° inclines.

Another plus of the new conveyor is its high capacity. Bohnker says the conveyer will move up to 10,000 bu./hr. and maintain constant capacity at all angles. He adds that the grain receives less damage because it does not touch the sides of an auger. The conveyor is available in 36-, 46-, 56- and 76-ft. lengths. It features a galvanized tube with A-frame undercarriage. Suggested retail price for a 76-ft. model is $13,500. Contact Eagle Concepts Inc., Dept. FIN, 102 Hannah Circle, Underwood, IA 51576, 712/566-2096.

Western senators offer disaster bill

The Emergency Agricultural Assistance Act of 2002, S-2800, would provide up to $5 billion in aid to all farmers who suffered crop losses due to weather or other natural disasters in 2001 or 2002.

In introducing the bill, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said meteorological studies show that some areas of his state of South Dakota are now more drought-stricken than they were at the height of the depression in 1936 because of the ongoing lack of rain in the West.

“As the situation worsens, so does the need for a bigger response,” he told reporters during his weekly press briefing, referring to earlier bills that sought less funding.

Daschle’s legislation is the latest in a series of attempts to pass new disaster assistance dating back to last fall when Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., also a sponsor of S-2800, sought unsuccessfully to add $2.8 billion in emergency assistance provision to a supplemental appropriations bill.

Sources say the Congressional Budget Office estimates the crop loss provisions of S-2800 would cost $3.8 billion and the livestock assistance provisions could run as high as $1.2 billion.

Because the legislation asks for an emergency declaration, the spending would not have to be offset by reductions in other programs.

Shortly after the introduction of S-2800, 20 farm organizations sent a letter to the Senate urging that its members support passage of the legislation that was also introduced by Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

The National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation and most of the major commodity organizations, including the National Cotton Council, signed the letter. The NCC said it supports the disaster legislation if it does not require any modifications to the new farm bill.

According to a summary, the bill would provide disaster assistance to farmers who experienced losses in yield and quality due to severe weather, pests and diseases in 2001 and 2002.

It would waive a provision in the Federal Crop Insurance Act prohibiting emergency disaster assistance and directs the secretary of agriculture to make emergency financial assistance available from Commodity Credit Corp. funding.

The legislation establishes the same loss threshold as used in previous legislation, which covered 2000 crop losses. The bill also makes funds available for livestock losses for 2001 and 2002 in any county that has received an emergency designation by the president or the secretary of agriculture.

Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has scheduled a mark-up session for the legislation on Thursday. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the committee’s ranking minority member, is expected to ask for offsets in the new farm bill to fund the new legislation.

Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have also introduced disaster assistance legislation that would provide $620 million for the Livestock Assistance Program. The cost of the Hagel-Enzi bill would be offset by spending reductions in the new farm bill.

And several House members from the Midwest have introduced legislation to provide emergency assistance to farmers who suffered crop losses in 2002. The CBO has scored the cost of their bill at $2.4 billion.

Rep. John Thune, R-S.D., one of the authors of the House bill, said that funding for the emergency assistance bill could be taken from an estimated $6 billion that he said will not be spent on farm programs during the remaining two months of the 2002 fiscal year.

Aside from the Senate Ag Committee mark-up, Congress is not expected to take further action on disaster assistance legislation until it returns from recess in early September.

President Bush said earlier he was opposed to providing any added assistance to farmers above that provided in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The administration did not comment on the latest bill.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Senate to consider final TPA report

The trade promotion authority legislation, formerly known as “Fast Track,” would give the president authority to negotiate trade agreements with other countries and submit them to the Congress for an up-or-down vote.

House members approved the House-Senate conference report by a 215 to 212 vote early Saturday morning and sent the compromise measure on to the Senate. The original House version of the legislation passed by one vote last December.

The legislation has split normally unified ag organizations with mainline groups such as the American Farm Bureau and the National Corn Growers Association supporting and the National Farmers Union and the American Corn Growers opposing it. The National Cotton Council continues to have reservations about some of the bill’s provisions.

“This trade negotiation authority is needed now,” said Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. “With negotiations well under way in the World Trade Organization, the United States cannot afford to delay TPA any longer.”

Stallman called the House vote a victory for U.S. farmers and ranchers. “Now we look to the Senate to pass the bill before adjourning for its August recess so that it can be signed into law soon.”

The Farm Bureau president’s comments were echoed by NCGA President Tim Hume, who thanked his members for their “grassroots efforts” to win passage for the bill in the House. He also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, urging him to schedule a vote on the conference report this week.

National Farmers Union leaders, meanwhile, were asking senators to reject the measure.

“The legislation fails to address the major issues effecting U.S. agriculture’s international competitiveness, such as exchange rates, currency valuations and labor and environmental standards,” NFU President Dave Frederickson said.

He cited the administration’s recent World Trade Organization proposal for agriculture as an example of how TPA would be detrimental to domestic producers. “It could cut assistance provided in the recently passed farm bill, and it could weaken domestic trade remedy protections against the unfair trade practices of other countries.”

American Corn Growers Association officials said farmers’ experience with earlier trade agreements do not bode well for the expanded negotiating authority that TPA would give the present and future administrations.

“The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has devastated farmers from the wheat fields of Canada to the corn fields of Mexico and from the tomato patches of Florida to the milking parlors of California,” said Keith Dittrich, the ACGA’s president.

“And until we can accomplish a major overhaul of NAFTA to ensure that it is fair for farmers and farm workers and that it helps sustain family farms and the rural economy, ACGA will oppose the negotiation and ratification of the expansion of that trade agreement.”

Dittrich said trade agreements have forced American corn farmers to relinquish 68 percent of their buying power in their pursuit of “mythical increases in exports which were, in turn, promised to bring prosperity to rural America and lower food prices to America’s consumers.”

The NFU’s Frederickson also complained that the House-Senate conference committee dropped from the TPA report a Senate amendment designed to protect domestic trade remedy laws. It also weakened trade adjustment assistance language originally adopted by the Senate.

Frederickson was referring to the Dayton-Craig amendment, a provision in the earlier Senate bill that would have allowed senators to reject any part of a trade agreement that weakened U.S. anti-dumping laws. Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., one of its authors, said he would oppose the conference report.

Conferees reportedly agreed to a compromise provision that would provide financial assistance that would enable workers who lose their jobs due to new trade agreements to maintain health insurance coverage, but not the level of assistance in the original Senate bill.

Textile state senators continued to express reservations about the bill’s impact on jobs in their states.

A review of the legislation by the National Cotton Council said the House-Senate conference report generally would:

  • Increase regional fabric quotas beyond levels that were proposed by a coalition comprised of the NCC, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute and the American Yarn Spinners Association
  • Includes no U.S. yarn requirements
  • Weakens the textile negotiating language the coalition had recommended.
  • /ul>

    For more information on the NCC analysis of the bill, go to the Council’s Web site at www.cotton.org/membersvcs/policy/review-tpa.cfm.

    e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

South Delta passes weevil program

In contrast to earlier, narrower margins of victory in Mississippi, 70.8 percent of those voting voted for the completion and maintenance phase in the balloting that ended July 19. Of those eligible, 72.7 percent returned their ballots, compared to the 50 percent required for a valid referendum.

“I was tickled that the vote passed with such margins – particularly with the current environment farmers are growing under,” says Farrell Boyd, head of the Mississippi eradication project.

The maintenance phase in Region 2 will kick off next year. The region’s growers voted for a 10-year maintenance program at a maximum assessment rate of $12 per acre per year. But Boyd doesn’t think the per-acre cost will approach $12.

“I’m hesitant to give an exact dollar amount but we’ve run studies and projections and think the true cost will be well under $12.”

Region 2 covers Sharkey, Issaquena, Humphreys and the Delta section of Yazoo County. Historically, the region has had moderate to light weevil pressure compared to the rest of the state – especially the hill section. Most of Humphrey’s County has been lightly affected by boll weevils while only parts of Sharkey County and Issaquena County have had heavier boll weevil populations.

Statewide

Statewide, Boyd and colleagues are seeing heavier weevil numbers than was anticipated.

“(The week of July 22), we captured 134 weevils in Region 2. That sounds like nothing, but we wanted to be down to 10!” he said. “Thus far, in Region 2, we’ve had 41,533 acres that have had enough weevils captured to meet treatment levels. This has resulted in a total of 129,215 acres being treated. In other words, the 41,533 acres have been treated an average of 3.1 times.”

The weevil numbers are up for two reasons. First, there was a situation that extended from mid-August of last year through September.

“If you recall, we had a very rainy spell during that time. That caused a lot of delays in getting insecticides applied. And any insecticides that were applied didn’t stay on the plant long enough to build up any residual effects.”

Just about the time the rains stopped, the terrorists hit New York and Washington, D.C. That shut down aerial applications for nine days. In the area south of Memphis, some cotton-growing areas were shut down for 22 days and more.

The terrorists hit just when the program was at a very critical point. Weevil populations were highest then – “particularly because we hadn’t been able to spray due to the weather. By the time aerial applicators were able to get back into the air, they were behind on several fronts,” said Boyd.

“Farmers wanted defoliation work to get going, and we wanted weevils to be sprayed. We had to be understanding because defoliation work was in our interest too.”

Regardless, more weevils went into diapause sites than Boyd wanted. Then, there was virtually no winter to kill populations back further. That resulted in both more weevils emerging and more sprayings throughout the growing season.

Boyd says the next referendum will be in the main Delta area of the state: Regions 1-A and 1-B. Those regions, currently in their fourth year of eradication, will vote next year on eradication maintenance work.

email: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

NCC chairman defends farm bill defense

Washington Post and New York Times.

Hood should know, having recently been the subject of a Wall Street Journal article that pilloried him and other U.S. cotton farmers for supposedly bringing economic hardship to cotton growers in Mali.

But Hood, the chairman of the National Cotton Council, says he isn’t sure what more the Council can do to respond to the criticism than it is already doing without being prepared to spend millions of dollars on a public relations campaign that may or not improve the public’s perceptions of farm programs.

“Because the criticism is both constant and unfair in its characterization of the program, and because the cotton industry is more often than not the focal point for the criticism, some people are telling me the Council isn’t doing enough to counter the way we’re being maligned,” he said.

“I’ve also been told that the Council isn’t doing enough to protect against payment limits. These critics of the Council’s efforts will go on to say that “we have to change the public’s attitudes about farm programs.”

Speaking at a meeting of the NCC’s American Cotton Producers and The Cotton Foundation in Atlanta, Hood said that most farmers would like to see public attitudes become more “farmer friendly and farm-program friendly.

“By any reasonable assessment, though, the task of attitude changes is monumental, enormously expensive and long-term in nature,” he noted. “It’s a result that we’ve sought for a long time, but it’s not a result the cotton industry can achieve by itself. The Agricultural Council of America was created many years ago to achieve this goal, but it never mustered the resources to make a real difference.”

The crux of the issue for the Council, he said, is “finding a way to make the public feel good about six and seven-figure payments to farmers. What’s more, except for our friends in the rice industry, we have trouble mustering much sympathy even from the rest of agriculture. Most grain farmers simply don’t need as big a payment as we do to make ends meet.”

Hood said the council’s board of directors recently brought in a consultant to discuss its media predicament and to consider options for addressing it.

“He agreed that changing public attitudes should be considered as a long-term objective and should not be undertaken without a commitment of substantial resources,” said Hood. “He noted that the plastics industry had spent more than $20 million a year for several years in their successful effort to influence public attitudes.”

Hood said the consultant did outline a shorter term, more narrowly focused approach that might deliver some results, but said it would need to be funded at $500,000 per year.

While other farm groups have not committed to participate in such a program, they have signed letters supporting the new farm bill and agreeing to coordinate their efforts to defend it against continued attacks, he said.

At a meeting requested by the National Corn Growers Association, representatives of the NCC and other member groups of the Commodity Roundtable met with Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

“While they were surprised to hear from commodity groups other than cotton and rice on the payment limits issue, they are still hearing from constituents urging more stringent payment limits,” said Hood. “It was also obvious that using the savings from payment limits to pay for disaster assistance was an option that some Midwest senators have not ruled out.”

Although it may not be much fun to be on the receiving end of so much condemnation, Hood said he would still rather be defending the Cotton Council for not stopping the criticism than for not getting a new farm bill.

“We were successful in getting enough votes to pass the farm bill in spite of public opinion that was poisoned by Environmental Working Group Web-site data and the bad publicity it spawned. Now we have to find the votes to fight off the payment limit amendments that would absolutely gut the program for the cotton industry.”

He told the producers and Cotton Foundation members that his comments should not be interpreted as complacency about responding to the bad press.

“We’ve responded to it with guest editorials, letters to the editors, distribution of fact sheets for use by our members, by posting critiques on our Web site and by encouraging other commodity and general farm organizations to join in the fight and by participating in a press conference to help generate better understanding,” Hood noted.

“I think we should respond, we have responded and we will continue to respond. My point is that we should not expect our responses to have life-changing impact on our critics.”

The Gunnison, Miss., producer said he expects the Cotton Council will have to “fight and win the payment limit battle many times before public opinion could ever be altered.”

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Fundamentals reflected in higher cotton prices

Speaking at the annual summer conference of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at Franklin, Tenn., he said the “wild card” is consumption – how much and where it will occur.

“We now know how many acres there are in most of the world, and July-November weather will determine what the final production numbers will be.”

Jernigan, chairman and chief executive officer of Globecot, which provides information and analyses to the fiber/textile industry and handles cotton futures trading worldwide, said China, Pakistan, and Turkey will be the three most influential countries affecting consumption.

“China is the real star, with consumption projected by USDA at a record 25.75 million bales” (he thinks it could top 26 million bales, while the rest of Asia is basically stagnant).

China is quickly moving toward status as the largest supplier of textiles/apparel to the U.S. market, he said. “They’re rapidly taking market share away from all cotton-producing countries as a result of increases allowed through their membership in the World Trade Organization.”

China’s exports to the U.S. are up more than 70 percent in volume, Jernigan said. At the same time, its domestic consumption will be robust – “higher than anyone has forecast.”

Additionally, a more competitive currency situation than other countries vis-a-vis the dollar, abundant cheap labor, political stability, and reliable shipping will help make China a formidable competitor for the lucrative U.S. market. “They’ve quickly learned to become the Wal-Mart of the textile/apparel business.”

Turkey, which continues to dominate in sales to the European Union, is trying to join the EU, Jernigan said, but is having problems with its currency, which “has weakened dramatically.”

Consumption is expected to be down sharply in the EU - from 20 percent to 50percent - and “there’s not much potential” for the U.S. to compete with Turkey in that market.

Pakistan is significantly boosting its yarn exports to China and other countries, including increases in the U.S. market. The remaining cut-and-sew operations in the U.S. “are operating almost at capacity, he said, “and a lot of their yarn is coming from Pakistan.”

The much-vaunted Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) is “seeing its influence waning” in terms of cotton use, “with little room to grow,” Jernigan said. Mexico, too, holds little growth potential for U.S. cotton.

Russia, on the other hand, “shows surprising potential for expanding usage.” Consumption is increasing, the country has made new investment in textile manufacturing facilities, with fabric output up by 24 percent, “and they pay on time.”

The outlook for world ending stocks for the 2002/3 marketing period “looks a lot more promising than for the past two years,” Jernigan said. Projections are that they carryover will be 41.182 million bales compared to 47.056 last season.

Factors influencing the outlook are reduced production in the U.S. (17.5 million bales versus 20.3 million last year) and China (20.4 million versus 24.4 million), expected reductions in India’s crop due to lack of monsoon rains, and potentially greater consumption in China, Turkey, and Pakistan.

Member ginners from Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi attended the SCGA conference.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com