Mark Lange, president and CEO of the National Cotton Council, understands and appreciates the importance of agricultural commodity organizations presenting a unified front to Congress in order to get the best farm program possible.

But Lange is adamant that a united front will not happen if cotton and other southern crops have to sacrifice billions of dollars in support to other commodities.

“Can commodity groups agree on the distribution of equity and program objectives?” Lange asked in a presentation to the Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. annual meeting. “We will have no unified voice if grain and oilseeds try to take money from cotton, rice and peanuts. We will not roll over and will not speak with a unified voice if they try to take billions of dollars (from southern crops) to enrich themselves.”

Lange said significant challenges face the industry as Congress begins the process of debating a new farm bill in an environment of political intrigue and ever tightening budgets. “And outside interests will weigh in wanting money. Disagreements between commodities must be resolved.”

He said any new farm program should include choices and not a “one size fits all” approach. “Choice is a necessity because of the diversity of U.S. agriculture. Patience, perseverance and unity of purpose will be critical,” he said.

Lange said Congress has several options for dealing with a farm program that expires at the end of the government’s fiscal year (Sept. 30). They can enact a new one; they can extend the old one; or “We might see some kind of transition. All are possible.”

Transition or extension could be problematic because certain actions and changes are required in a new farm program to satisfy agreements spelled out in the Brazil WTO cotton case. “If we extend the current program, we could have trouble with Brazil,” he said.