National Cotton Council President Mark Lange Examines Farm Bill's Progress, ProspectsMon, 02 Apr 2012 17:21:29 CDT
Mark Lange, President and CEO of the National Cotton Council of America, spoke to growers recently about what he sees in store for the new farm bill. He said that getting such a bill passed is an enormous undertaking and that producers are unanimous that they need a good bill and they need it now. He says where the difficulty comes in is whose definition of "good bill" do you use?
As the process of crafting a new farm bill in all its complexity has gone forward, Lange has had a ringside seat. He gave his audience a sneak preview of which way the winds are blowing and what he expects to see. In many ways, it's not a pretty picture, but Lange remains hopeful.
He said one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that any bill will contain more cuts than are now expected. Those cuts will drastically change the farm bill landscape.
"The House passed a budget yesterday which requires $33 billion instead of 23 billion and it specifically identifies some cuts to commodities, conservation and crop insurance that are higher than the cuts that were in the $23 billion dollar plan. That $23 billion dollar package is fairly fragile. I would tell you that if you have to take much more than a billion or two out of commodity programs, it's going to cause an unraveling because you're going to have to really start paring back on a wide number of things. And most people, most producers, will begin to realize that the safety net that has been there for agriculture is disappearing. The safety net that would exist would just be a marketing loan for most commodities. And that's going to be disturbing, I think, to all of us."
He said legislators are complaining that they are having a difficult time finding common ground among all the commodity groups.
"The commodity groups themselves have made it a little difficult on Congress because the commodity groups aren't giving the Congress a unified voice.
"And I don't mind telling you, because I speak for cotton--that's my job--that some grains and oil seeds are trying to take your money. And not just our money, but they're trying to take the money that's in the baseline for rice and peanuts and cotton in order to enrich their revenue programs.
"If they think we're just going to roll over and say 'Oh, yeah, that's just fair,' I don't think so. So Congress comes to us and says you really need to give us better direction, but I'm sorry, as long as the grains and oil seeds are going to try to steal several hundreds of millions of dollars annually in support from rice, peanuts and cotton to enrich their programs, we're not going to speak with a single voice. It's not going to happen."
Lange said that everyone is concerned that we get a farm bill passed by next fall and that's the biggest question mark of all.
"Can they complete their work by November? I think that's very y difficult. It's really not November. They'll probably adjourn in very early October since it's an election year. So, can they get that work done in a shortened work year? I think that's really yet to be determined."
And even if Congress does pass the bill, getting it implemented in a timely fashion will be a difficult process.
"The other thing that I can tell you we have to be prepared for-and all of agriculture will grapple with this eventually-is transition or extension. As you run up farther into this year and you don't have a farm bill and you're eventually talking about a farm bill that is substantially from the current bill, in all likelihood you can't get it into place by 2013. FSA and RMA can do some pretty good things, but if they're not handed the final legislation until late in 2012, they just won't get it done so that it's in effect for 2013. There will be a transition, in all likelihood, if that happens."
Lange also addressed the the long-simmering trade issues with Brazil that if not handled properly , could result in tensions, tarrifs and a trade war.
You can listen to Mark Lange's full address to the Cotton Growers annual meeting by clicking the LISTEN BAR below.
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