Ag News

Federal budget debate could delay advancement of farm bill

With Congress wrangling over funding the federal government, other issues like a pending disaster bill and negotiations over the next farm bill, may be forced to wait for attention in Washington, according to National Cotton Council (NCC) Vice President for Washington Operations Reece Langley.

 “Really the big thing that’s hanging over Congress and their ability to get anything else done right now is figuring a way out of this funding situation that they find themselves in,” Langley said. “So until they figure out how to come together, both parties, House and Senate, and pass a comprehensive funding bill for the remainder of this year, this issue is going to continue to take up most of the oxygen in Congress and not much else will get done.”

Langley, who addressed growers at the 11th Georgia Cotton Commission (GCC) Annual Meeting on Jan. 31 in Tifton, told growers the sentiment in Washington seems favorable to getting cotton back in the commodity title of the next farm bill. He noted the Supplemental Disaster Assistance Bill, which the House passed in December, makes seed cotton a covered commodity and eligible for commodity programs under the 2014 farm bill. Meanwhile, the Senate Ag Appropriations package passed last summer, would increase the baseline funding for cotton in the next farm bill.

“We’re very optimistic that one of these two is going to make it into that final package in February and March. If we have that in place, it positions us very well moving into the farm bill debate going forward,” said Langley, who said he expects both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to have farm bills written by the end of March.

Langley was one of five speakers in the general session.  GCC Executive Director Richey Seaton reviewed activities funded by the commission in the past year.

Stacey Gorman, communications director for The Cotton Board, detailed the organization’s efforts to increase demand for and profitability of cotton. She demonstrated a new ad campaign with the theme “Leave Comfort to Clothes,” emphasizing that consumers don’t have to worry about being comfortable when wearing cotton.

Cotton Incorporated Vice President of Agricultural & Environmental Research Kater Hake detailed competition cotton faces from synthetic fibers. Hake said there is growing demand for filament polyester, which cannot be blended with cotton, and diminishing demand for staple polyester, which can be blended with cotton. Hake also highlighted a study on the health benefits of cottonseed oil, which has been shown to improve levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

National Cotton Council President Ronnie Lee talked about market factors and production issues facing cotton, particularly contamination in cotton lint.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to maintain our reputation of being contamination free,” Lee said.

The meeting also featured the UGA Cotton Production Workshop, where university experts shared the latest on economics and marketing, fertility, plant pathology, plant technologies, physiology, irrigation and precision ag and insect pest management.