“Even though the Joint Committee failed to produce a deficit reduction plan by the Congressionally-mandated deadline, we will be working for adoption of STAX during the 2012 farm bill re-authorization,” said Coley.

House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders have announced a new round of hearings over the next few weeks that appear to be aimed at drafting new farm bill language, possibly as early as the beginning of April.

The National Cotton Council will also be seeking adjustments to the marketing loan for cotton, in part, to address the ongoing fallout from the WTO case Brazil brought against the U.S. cotton program in 2006.

“Of course, cotton has its own specific challenge with the WTO Brazil case and the need to negotiate a settlement,” Coley said. “That said, we are convinced that the STAX and the marketing loan changes offer the most effective proposals to satisfy the WTO Brazil case in spite of the initial criticism included in the Brazilian government letter.” 

The letter was sent by the Brazilian government in response to the renewed efforts to reopen the farm bill debate; a debate that many had thought might be postponed to 2013 due to the presidential election. Coley said the Council has developed some strong counter-points to the Brazil letter and shared these with Congress, USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative.

“Unfortunately, some have interpreted Brazil’s letter as an endorsement of current farm policy—when in fact, Brazil only views current policy as less objectionable than the farm bill options they criticized—because with current policy, payments are capped, de-coupled and based on historic production,” said Coley.

“Throughout this process, it is absolutely critical that the cotton industry remain united behind our proposal, while understanding the continuing need for discussions with our membership the reasoning for our farm bill position.”

Depending on the timing of the 2012 farm bill debate, Coley said the Council may have to develop recommendations on how to transition to the STAX program in 2014, if USDA is unable to implement it for the 2013 crop due to insurance deadlines.

“If that is the case, the Council will count on the leadership of the American Cotton Producers and its Farm Policy Task Force to begin the process which will culminate in the development of recommendations that will ultimately be considered by the Council’s Board,” he noted.

“As a final word on farm bill challenges, these are going to require patience and flexibility by the industry’s leadership, as we work our way through the farm bill debate. Without doubt, we will be counting on the support of our friends in Congress, including the industry’s good friends in the Mid-South’s Congressional delegation.

flaws@farmpress.com