Mid-South cotton and grain farmers are no strangers to uncertainty in their farming operations. No one knows, for example, if the Mid-South will have an early spring or a “blackberry winter” in the next two months.

National Cotton Council leaders are also having to learn to deal with more uncertainty given the federal budget crisis and the need to revisit the nation’s four-or five-year farm legislation in the midst of a presidential election year.

That’s basically what NCC Chairman Chuck Coley said when he spoke to the opening session of the 60th annual Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis, Tenn., this morning (March 2).

The incoming chairman of the Council traditionally gives the first speech at the “Gin Show’s” Friday-morning educational seminar.

Coley, a cotton producer and ginner from Vienna, Ga., said one of the biggest uncertainties is the ongoing effort to rein in the federal budget deficit through cuts to farm programs and to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget.

“There will be proposals to increase agriculture’s budget cuts,” he said. “Recall that the Agriculture Committees recommended to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction a $23 billion reduction over 10 years. In contrast, the administration’s budget, released last month, calls for cuts in agriculture of $32 billion over 10 years, including elimination of direct payments and a sharp reduction in crop insurance funding.”

Similarly troubling will be the probable push from other agricultural organizations for a “one size fits all” approach instead of a package of options tailored to fit each commodity covered in the next farm bill.

The Council unveiled its own farm policy position last summer and then re-affirmed the language at its annual meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas last month. The proposal is called the Stacked Income Protection Program or STAX – an area-wide crop insurance-based, shallow loss risk management program, along with adjustments to the marketing loan.

(For a detailed look at the NCC’s proposal, click here).

The Council was successful in including STAX in the House and Senate Agriculture Committees’ proposal to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reductions last November. The Select Committee was unable to put together a deficit-reduction plan, creating even more uncertainty for the next budget cycle.