Cotton Group Responds to Cotton Ginning Cost Sharing Program

With no safety net in place for cotton producers through the 2014 Farm Bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to a “train-wreck” that the industry was facing following the 2015 crop year. Tony St. James has more…

“You know, one of the things that was evident, after it was announced, was part of the reason that it took the time that it did, was that FSA was doing a lot of work to have everything ready to go once it was announced.”

That’s Steve Verett, Executive Vice President of Plains Cotton Growers, talking about USDA’s Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program, announced earlier this month, in response to the cotton industry being devastated by low prices and very high production costs.

“We wouldn’t have to be waiting for another two or three months, for them to write the rules, to get the software ready…they announced that signup with begin in two weeks, from 6th, and that was on the 20th, and that they’d be sending out pre-populated forms to all producers that had an interest in the cotton crop in 2015, with their planted acres, and then the payment rate for that region where the cotton was grown, and then all the producer would have to do is make sure the forms were signed, take it back to the FSA office, confirm all the numbers, and then the ball would be rolling.  And they’re talking about payments going out in early July.”

Originally, the cotton industry looking to get the secretary to designate cotton seed as an ‘other’ oil seed under the 2014 farm bill.  The secretary said he didn’t have the authority to do that.  The program, only for one year, but Verett says the industry is already looking ahead.

“We mentioned about the cotton seed, and I want everyone to be assured that the industry hasn’t given up on getting cotton seed added under Title I, that work is continuing.  We’re working with the House Ag Committee, Mike Conaway and his folks are committed to that,, they know that certainly, the situation for cotton isn’t going to change much between now and next year, and when I say ‘next year’ I really mean 2016, the crop that we have in the ground now.  we’re hoping that something can be done, whether it’s through legislative activity, to authorize cotton seed as an ‘other ‘ oilseed, that work is continuing on, because t his is a onetime payment and this authority is for the 2015 crop year only. So, we’ve got to continue to work to get something more permanent in place.  Especially, we can’t wait until the deliberation of the new farm bill, we still have through the ’18 crop year, so we still have three years, including this crop year, that we’re going to be operating at least that many years under the ’14 farm bill, if it’s dealt with in a timely fashion to have something in place after ’18.”

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.