Legislative Update from Plains Cotton GrowersSat, 23 Jul 2022 08:00:32 CDT
On behalf of Plains Cotton Growers Inc., chief executive officer, Kody Bessent, went to Washington D.C. July 14 and 15 to meet with Congressional members and staff in advance of the House considering the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Agriculture Appropriations bill. While there, he expressed PCG’s sincere gratitude for the recently implemented Emergency Relief Program — an effort worked on and supported by Congress and advocacy organizations, including PCG, since March 2021.
Additionally, Bessent provided an update regarding the ongoing adversity producers and infrastructure face this cropping season due to high winds, below normal rainfall and extreme temperatures that have had a negative impact on cotton acres and production. He emphasized the potential need for future assistance should conditions persist.
Bessent attended key political events on behalf of PCG where we continue to build upon our advocacy and coalition efforts in advance of the development of the 2023 Farm Bill. He also had the opportunity to visit with producer participants of the National Cotton Council Policy Education Program, discussing the importance of advocacy in agriculture.
This week, the House advanced H.R. 8294, a mini-series of six of the 12 FY 2023 spending bills — including the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill — on a 220 to 207 vote. Specifically, the agriculture related provisions of the minibus include $27.2 billion in discretionary funding in FY 2023, $2.08 billion more than the FY 2022 level. The bill also includes mandatory funding for nutrition assistance and crop insurance programs, which would bring the total to $195.6 billion.
Cotton initiatives specifically included in the legislation are the following:
$1 million above FY 2022 support levels for research efforts to combat whiteflies that are severely impacting vegetable and cotton production in southeastern parts of the U.S.
$15.9 million provided for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine Cotton Pests Programs to ensure APHIS and the cotton industry have adequate funding to prevent cotton boll weevil reinfestation in areas of the U.S. where it has been successfully eradicated.
$4 million provided for improvements to the U.S. cotton classing offices and operations as Congress acknowledges the challenges presented during the 2021 cotton season such as extensive delays in quality designation, contract delivery and loan repayments.
Furthermore, Congress encourages the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to continue to work with its customers to secure stability and dependability of the cotton classification program to ensure it accurately processes numerous samples of cotton in a timely manner with less reliance on seasonal staff, which translates to less disruption of market opportunities for producers.
House Democrats are hoping to clear most of the 12 appropriations bills by the end of this month. However, at this point, the initial passage of this week’s minibus spending package does not have a clear path forward before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Furthermore, the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to schedule any hearings to mark up any of the spending bills, undoubtedly teeing up Congress to pass a continuing resolution at the beginning of FY 2023 to avoid a government shutdown.
This will likely result in a lame-duck negotiating session to pass either an omni spending package or a year-long continuing resolution. As progress on these initiatives are made, PCG will continue to keep our members and readership updated on its advancement.
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