Farm Policy/Legislative Affairs

Legislative Affairs

Major activities carried out during 2013.

Farm Legislation

Early in 2013, the NCC joined with 13 general farm and commodity organizations on a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressing deep concerns regarding his introduction of the farm bill component of the American Family Economic Protection Act. That plan would have terminated Direct Payments beginning in 2014 thereby substantially reducing the budget resources available to the respective agriculture committees to write a new multi-year farm law.

In April, the NCC distributed a statement to news media stating that farm policy should maintain the underlying structure of the proposed insurance product known as the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX). The statement noted that the U.S. cotton industry also must devise policy that will resolve the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Brazil.

A notable event was a meeting with Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) to discuss the cotton title and the importance of the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP) for domestic textile manufacturers for that committee's farm bill draft. EAAP was subsequently included in Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow's (D-MI) farm bill mark.

The NCC expressed appreciation to leaders and members of the Senate and House agriculture committees for moving those panels' respective farm bills – the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954) and the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM, H.R. 1947). The letters specifically conveyed appreciation for the inclusion of cotton industry priorities, among them: STAX, transition payments to assist growers and their lenders until STAX can be fully implemented, and provisions that should resolve the longstanding Brazil WTO case.

In advance of FARRM's House floor consideration, NCC joined a coalition of commodity, general farm and agribusiness organizations that worked with House leaders to build support for bipartisan approval of FARRM. Among specific activities were: 1) a NCC statement distributed to the news media saying the bill would save nearly $40 billion in mandatory funds while providing reforms to farm policy and 2) a coalition letter to all House Members and a NCC letter to House Cotton Belt Members – both of which urged passage of that legislation by September.

Crawford and Dodson

NCC Chairman Jimmy Dodson met with Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) and other key House leaders seeking to build support for bipartisan approval of FARRM.

Unfortunately, the House failed to approve FARRM, prompting the NCC to express its deep disappointment and urge House leaders to allow the bill to be reconsidered by the full House so that a Conference Committee could resolve differences between their respective bills and a new farm law could be enacted before the expiration of current law. The NCC also joined a 532-member coalition of America's agriculture, conservation, rural development, finance, forestry, energy and crop insurance companies and organizations in sending a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) strongly urging him to quickly bring H.R. 1947 back to the floor.

After the House approved a "farm bill-farm bill," a measure that did not include a nutrition title, the NCC issued a statement in which Chairman Jimmy Dodson urged leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees to work expeditiously to resolve the differences between their respective farm bills so that Congress could take final action and the President sign the legislation.

In November, after farm bill conferees were named, the NCC urged prompt enactment of comprehensive farm legislation in advance of the WTO Ministerial meeting in Indonesia in early December -- to head off efforts by the sub-Saharan cotton producing countries and Brazil seeking further action on cotton and export financing programs as part of the Ministerial agreement.

The Farm Bill Conference Committee completed their report and it has been approved by the House and Senate. The legislation now awaits enactment by the White House.

In other farm policy activity, the NCC:

Sent a letter to USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan Garcia conveying appreciation for the release of farm program payment funds, which had been frozen due to budget sequestration. The letter also requested a date for the release of EAAP funds, which had been similarly placed on hold due to budget constraints, as well as an explanation of possible payment reductions.

Joined rice, peanut and sugar groups in a meeting with USDA officials to ask that sequestration not be applied to the 2013 crop marketing assistance loans and that alternative methods to achieve savings be identified. The NCC also urged USDA to accelerate action necessary to clarify rules for redeeming cotton as well as to complete the software modification and begin processing loans as quickly as possible.

Thanked USDA after the agency announced in October that it had begun distributing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) annual rental payments and that it would begin distributing 2013 Direct Payments and 2012 Average Crop Revenue Election program payments that month.

Posted on its website new fees for the GSM-102 export credit guarantee program announced by USDA that would apply to applications filed after May 10, 2013. The new fees were necessary under terms of the U.S.-Brazil Framework Agreement because utilization exceeded the threshold in the agreement.

Welcomed the appointment of Jason Weller as chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and said it looked forward to working with him on conservation issues important to the U.S. cotton industry.

Legislative Affairs

The NCC contacted all Cotton Belt Senate offices and joined with 39 other agricultural organizations on a letter to the Senate Majority and Minority leaders – to convey opposition to an amendment to a FY14 budget plan developed by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA). The amendment, offered by Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Mark Begich (R-AK), would have required USDA's Risk Management Agency to release certain crop insurance information. In its correspondence, the NCC noted that 1) many producers across the country have faced two years of severe drought and have survived due to federal crop insurance and 2) any amendment that could reduce participation in the program should be opposed. The NCC also noted that federal crop insurance is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee and this type of policy change is significant and deserves a thorough examination through the reauthorization of a farm bill.

Flooded Field

The NCC urged continued support of crop insurance as an effective risk management tool for farmers and ranchers who can face losses beyond their control.

The NCC joined more than 40 other agricultural organizations on a letter to the House and Senate agriculture committees' leadership urging the continued support of crop insurance. The letter, which also was sent to the full House and Senate membership, noted that "federal crop insurance provides an effective risk management tool to farmers and ranchers of all sizes when they are facing losses beyond their control, reduces taxpayer risk exposure, makes hedging possible to help mitigate market volatility, and provides lenders with greater certainty that loans made to producers will be repaid."

Later, the NCC joined 43 other agricultural organizations in cosigning a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) supporting crop insurance and opposing provisions that would limit its effectiveness.

The letter stated that insurance products offered through federal crop insurance are essential to food security, allowing farmers and ranchers to secure operating capital from lenders each year and produce food for consumers around the world.

All immigration reform proposals were monitored. The NCC joined a broad coalition of agriculture organizations on a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) encouraging them to support immigration reform that addresses agriculture's unique workforce needs. The Agriculture Workforce Coalition letter also cited the essential need for securing a reliable agricultural workforce not only for farmers but for the U.S. economy.

The NCC posted on its website a summary of "The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013," an immigration reform bill that was unveiled in the Senate and that included workforce requirements for producers with seasonal and year-round labor needs. Before the bill was approved by the Senate, the Later, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Agricultural Guestworker "AG" Act (H.R. 1773) -- a bill that would replace the current H2-A visa program with a new H2-C visa. The NCC then joined nearly 100 other agriculture organizations on a letter to each Representative urging them to support passage of immigration legislation that addresses the labor crisis facing American agriculture.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY14 Agriculture Appropriations bill that provided $12.2 million to the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service's Cotton Pests account for continuing the cost share for boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved its FY14 Agriculture Appropriations measure that provides $12.7 million in cost share funding, as requested by the cotton industry, for the Cotton Pests account.

After the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) adopted a new customer protection rule, the NCC joined with a coalition of other agricultural groups in sending two letters to the CFTC and participating in several calls with CFTC staff. Concern was expressed that this new interpretation of longstanding law under the Commodity Exchange Act would significantly increase costs for both customers and futures commission merchants, thereby reducing their ability to utilize and administer futures contracts as effective risk management tools.

In other legislative activities, the NCC:

Noted that U.S. agriculture will lose "a true champion" in Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) not running for 2014 re-election, as he "has been extraordinarily responsive to the concerns of production agriculture, including cotton."

Conveyed support in comments submitted to USDA for maintaining the 2013 crop cotton classification user fee at the 2012 level of $2.20/bale.

Discussed with officials of USDA's Risk Management Agency a range of topics related to cotton crop insurance products as well as STAX details.