NEW ORLEANS (Special) – National Cotton Council Chairman Kenneth Hood told the organization's directors that securing the key provisions of new farm law and defending it against unjust criticism are challenges facing the U.S. cotton industry and all of agriculture.
Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Byron Dorgan (R-SD) have announced their intention to reintroduce an amendment to cut limits, impose direct attribution and eliminate generic certificates, Hood noted in comments at the NCC’s spring Board meeting in New Orleans. Additionally, he said, the industry is extremely disappointed with the tone of editorials and reports on the new law that have appeared in a number of major newspapers.
"The challenges to the law will have three basic themes: policy, politics and budget," Hood said. "The legislative vehicle for amendments will be must-pass appropriations measures not under the direct control of the Agriculture committees."
Hood said response has been excellent from other commodity and farm organizations to convene a meeting of the Commodity Roundtable in Washington on June 12 to develop a coordinated effort to retain key provisions of the law and to discuss other mutual interest issues. Representatives of the Administration and Agriculture committees have asked to participate.
Hood said that with the budget surplus rapidly disappearing, "we can realistically expect amendments to be offered to modify farm programs to generate savings that could be spent on other priorities."
Another challenge will be for U.S. cotton to find some common ground on at least some core provisions of Trade Promotion Authority legislation as the House/Senate conference is expected to begin soon. "There are some major differences between the two bills and the outcome will have very significant implications for the U.S. cotton and textile industries."
Hood said that along with international trade policy, foreign market development is a high NCC priority in the years ahead. He said that the new farm law provides additional support for Cotton Council International's export promotion programs for fiber and U.S.-manufactured products provided the NCC can keep industry seed money at a level that will enable U.S. cotton to compete aggressively for public funds.
Among other NCC priorities for the near term Hood noted were: 1) utilizing information gathered from NCC members to help in the farm bill implementation process; 2) seeking disaster program funding in future spending measures; 3) participating in the Sound Dollar Coalition to address currency exchange rates and the strong dollar; 4) continuing Quality Task Force activities dealing with pepper trash research, variety selection, sticky cotton measurements and loan schedule improvements; 5) supporting the Bale Packaging Committee's review of bale cover specifications; and 6) engaging in a number of regulatory issues covering flammability, cottonseed ammoniation,crop protection product registration, air quality standards and biotechnology.