Texas Agriculture January 1, 2016 : Page 18

Farmers, ag organizations ask USDA to consider cottonseed coverage By Jessica Domel News Editor A combination of high inputs, low prices and no safety net could spell disaster for not only American cot-ton farmers, but for the Texas and U.S. economies. Over 100 lawmakers, including Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas, sent a letter to the U.S. De-partment of Agriculture (USDA) and Secretary Tom Vilsack urging them to designate cottonseed as an “other oilseed” so growers will qualify for farm bill safety net programs. The American Farm Bureau Fed-eration (AFBF) board of directors has also sent a letter urging USDA to make the designation. Fourth generation cotton farmer Dan B. Smith of Lockney explains, via testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, why ac-tion is needed. “The 2014 Farm Bill gave us a to-tally crop insurance-based support program for cotton and removed our crop from Title 1,” Smith wrote. Farm bill coverage is currently unavailable to U.S. cotton farmers following the Brazilian Cotton Case. Brazil alleged the U.S. gave un-fair subsidies to its cotton growers. As a result, U.S. officials promised not to give direct subsidies to cotton farmers. Losing coverage couldn’t have come at a worse time for cotton grow-ers. Cotton prices have decreased dramatically. “The lack of a safety net has made profitable cotton farming much less likely,” Smith wrote. Cotton production is infrastruc-ture-intensive. Farmers rely on a network of capital-intensive busi-nesses to process cotton. “From gins at the local level to textile plants at the end of the chain–all must be profitable to stay in business,” Smith wrote. Farmers need handlers and pro-cessors for their cotton and cotton products, who in turn need the cot-ton flowing into the market. “At present, all levels of our do-mestic cotton industry are hurt-ing, but without farmers growing the crop to begin with, the industry grinds to a halt,” Smith wrote. A decline in the cotton industry could result in a heavy hit to the state and U.S. economies. Texas is the largest cotton-pro-ducing state—growing 55 percent of the nation’s total acres of cotton. The value of cash receipts for cot-ton is the largest of any crop in Tex-as at $2.2 billion. “If cotton production declines sig-nificantly as a result of persistent low prices, not only will local econo-mies suffer, but the state as a whole will suffer,” Smith wrote. The cotton industry is caught in a classic cost-price squeeze. And to-day’s cotton prices are not sufficient to afford higher input costs. The combination could mean a loss of cotton farmers. By 2018, nine of 16 farmers could have a cash flow deficit of 50 percent or higher, according to a projection from the Agricultural and Food Poli-cy Center at Texas A&M University. Half the farms are projected to lose net worth in the same time. “Of the eight representative farms located in Texas, only one was ranked ‘good’ in terms of long-term economic viability, two were ‘mar-ginal,’ and five were ‘poor,’” Smith wrote. The problem is complex. The reso-lution seems much simpler. If cottonseed is designated as an oilseed, cotton farmers would have a safety net that could help them stay in business. “This would be a wise step for-ward for all of agriculture, not just cotton farmers,” Smith wrote. The designation would require no legislative action. GAO: EPA broke law in promoting water rule online By Jessica Domel News Editor A new report from the U.S. Govern-ment Accountability Office (GAO) re-veals the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law in pro-moting its Waters of the U.S. (WO-TUS) law on social media. “It’s clear from this report that EPA orchestrated this matter in a biased fashion,” Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president, said in a state-ment. “Now it’s up to Congress to clean up this mess by including a corrective measure in the omnibus bill now taking shape on Capitol Hill.” The GAO report, released Dec. 14, concludes the EPA unlawfully used funds for unauthorized publicity or propaganda purposes and for indi-rect or grassroots lobby in support or opposition to pending legislation. EPA reportedly violated the Fi-nancial Services and General Gov-ernment Appropriations Act during fiscal years 2014 and 2015 in promo-tion of WOTUS. The report does not indicate how much money was spent to promote WOTUS on social media. According to the GAO, the EPA utilized several social media sites, including a platform called Thun-derclap, to combat opposition to WOTUS. Thunderclap is an online plat-form used to promote campaigns across multiple social media sites. The Washington Post reports the EPA also shared environmentalist groups’ materials supporting WO-TUS, including materials that were clearly designed to oppose legisla-tive efforts to block or limit the rule. Those efforts, according to the Post , were “covert propaganda.” EPA disputes the GAO report. According to POLITICO , EPA ar-gues it uses social media to inform the public about EPA initiatives and not to engage in lobbying, which is prohibited. The GAO report comes on the heels of questions as to the legality of WOTUS. Businesses, agricultural organi-zations like Texas Farm Bureau and AFBF, states and other groups have filed lawsuits against the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to prevent EPA and the Corps from implement-ing the water rule. The rule has since been stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit until the legal system can determine who has jurisdiction in the lawsuits. “Courts already have declared se-rious doubts about the legal author-ity for the rule,” Stallman said. “Now that it has become clear the agency used illegal tactics to manufacture ill-informed support for the rule, Congress should act immediately to prohibit implementation of the rule, which is the product of an unlawful and misguided process.” Before the temporary stay was is-sued on the rule, WOTUS effectively expanded the EPA’s regulatory au-thority over waterways across the nation. It also effectively gave EPA au-thority over areas of land that only sometimes hold water like streams, ditches and low-lying areas by claiming the area could eventually connect to a larger waterway. By threatening fines for actions on those areas, the EPA could ef-fectively decide who farms and how they do it. As the legal battle continues, watch for additional updates from TFB on its website, www.Texas-FarmBureau.org. Background on WOTUS can also be found on DitchTheRule.FB.org. 18 J ANUARY 1, 2016

Farmers, AG Organizations Ask USDA to Consider Cottonseed Coverage

Jessica Domel

A combination of high inputs, low prices and no safety net could spell disaster for not only American cotton farmers, but for the Texas and U.S. economies.

Over 100 lawmakers, including Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Secretary Tom Vilsack urging them to designate cottonseed as an “other oilseed” so growers will qualify for farm bill safety net programs.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) board of directors has also sent a letter urging USDA to make the designation.

Fourth generation cotton farmer Dan B. Smith of Lockney explains, via testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, why action is needed.

“The 2014 Farm Bill gave us a totally crop insurance-based support program for cotton and removed our crop from Title 1,” Smith wrote.

Farm bill coverage is currently unavailable to U.S. cotton farmers following the Brazilian Cotton Case.

Brazil alleged the U.S. gave unfair subsidies to its cotton growers.

As a result, U.S. officials promised not to give direct subsidies to cotton farmers.

Losing coverage couldn’t have come at a worse time for cotton growers. Cotton prices have decreased dramatically.

“The lack of a safety net has made profitable cotton farming much less likely,” Smith wrote.

Cotton production is infrastructure-intensive. Farmers rely on a network of capital-intensive businesses to process cotton.

“From gins at the local level to textile plants at the end of the chain–all must be profitable to stay in business,” Smith wrote.

Farmers need handlers and processors for their cotton and cotton products, who in turn need the cotton flowing into the market.

“At present, all levels of our domestic cotton industry are hurting, but without farmers growing the crop to begin with, the industry grinds to a halt,” Smith wrote.

A decline in the cotton industry could result in a heavy hit to the state and U.S. economies.

Texas is the largest cotton-producing state—growing 55 percent of the nation’s total acres of cotton.

The value of cash receipts for cotton is the largest of any crop in Texas at $2.2 billion.

“If cotton production declines significantly as a result of persistent low prices, not only will local economies suffer, but the state as a whole will suffer,” Smith wrote.

The cotton industry is caught in a classic cost-price squeeze. And today’s cotton prices are not sufficient to afford higher input costs.

The combination could mean a loss of cotton farmers.

By 2018, nine of 16 farmers could have a cash flow deficit of 50 percent or higher, according to a projection from the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University.

Half the farms are projected to lose net worth in the same time.

“Of the eight representative farms located in Texas, only one was ranked ‘good’ in terms of long-term economic viability, two were ‘marginal,’ and five were ‘poor,’” Smith wrote.

The problem is complex. The resolution seems much simpler.

If cottonseed is designated as an oilseed, cotton farmers would have a safety net that could help them stay in business.

“This would be a wise step forward for all of agriculture, not just cotton farmers,” Smith wrote.

The designation would require no legislative action.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Farmers%2C+AG+Organizations+Ask+USDA+to+Consider+Cottonseed+Coverage/2369151/287394/article.html.

GAO: EPA Broke Law in Promoting Water Rule Online

Jessica Domel

A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law in promoting its Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) law on social media.

“It’s clear from this report that EPA orchestrated this matter in a biased fashion,” Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president, said in a statement. “Now it’s up to Congress to clean up this mess by including a corrective measure in the omnibus bill now taking shape on Capitol Hill.”

The GAO report, released Dec. 14, concludes the EPA unlawfully used funds for unauthorized publicity or propaganda purposes and for indirect or grassroots lobby in support or opposition to pending legislation.

EPA reportedly violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act during fiscal years 2014 and 2015 in promotion of WOTUS.

The report does not indicate how much money was spent to promote WOTUS on social media.

According to the GAO, the EPA utilized several social media sites, including a platform called Thunderclap, to combat opposition to WOTUS.

Thunderclap is an online platform used to promote campaigns across multiple social media sites.

The Washington Post reports the EPA also shared environmentalist groups’ materials supporting WOTUS, including materials that were clearly designed to oppose legislative efforts to block or limit the rule.

Those efforts, according to the Post , were “covert propaganda.”

EPA disputes the GAO report.

According to POLITICO , EPA argues it uses social media to inform the public about EPA initiatives and not to engage in lobbying, which is prohibited.

The GAO report comes on the heels of questions as to the legality of WOTUS.

Businesses, agricultural organizations like Texas Farm Bureau and AFBF, states and other groups have filed lawsuits against the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to prevent EPA and the Corps from implementing the water rule.

The rule has since been stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit until the legal system can determine who has jurisdiction in the lawsuits.

“Courts already have declared serious doubts about the legal authority for the rule,” Stallman said. “Now that it has become clear the agency used illegal tactics to manufacture ill-informed support for the rule, Congress should act immediately to prohibit implementation of the rule, which is the product of an unlawful and misguided process.”

Before the temporary stay was issued on the rule, WOTUS effectively expanded the EPA’s regulatory authority over waterways across the nation.

It also effectively gave EPA authority over areas of land that only sometimes hold water like streams, ditches and low-lying areas by claiming the area could eventually connect to a larger waterway.

By threatening fines for actions on those areas, the EPA could effectively decide who farms and how they do it.

As the legal battle continues, watch for additional updates from TFB on its website, www.TexasFarmBureau.org.

Background on WOTUS can also be found on DitchTheRule.FB.org.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/GAO%3A+EPA+Broke+Law+in+Promoting+Water+Rule+Online/2369162/287394/article.html.

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