National Cotton Council leaders say they faced a “tough call” on the new payment limit legislation in the House-passed 2007 farm bill. But they’re conviced they made the right choice with the options they faced.

National Cotton Council Chairman John Pucheu traced the steps leading up to what could have been a controversial decision to agree to proposals for tightening payment limit rules in a speech at the American Cotton Producers/Cotton Foundation joint meeting in St. Louis.

Pucheu said NCC leaders were called to a meeting with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson shortly before the committee convened to “mark-up” its version of the 2007 legislation in mid-July. Wheat, rice and peanut organization representatives also attended.

During the meeting, Peterson laid out the details of the payment limit package that he planned to include in the House bill, H.R. 2419. The package called for direct attribution of payments (to a single Social Security number), elimination of the three-entity rule and a reduction of the adjusted gross income limit from $2.5 million to $1 million.

“All of us were faced with a very difficult decision — whether to agree to a package containing significant payment limit reforms in return for a pledge from Chairman Peterson and House leadership to fully support cotton’s provisions in the Committee bill and to oppose damaging amendments to the cotton program and further payment limit restrictions,” said Pucheu.

“If we didn’t agree and decided to stay where we are on current payment limits, we would have done so without the House leadership’s support and would have had to fight every amendment on our own. So, our options were obviously very limited, and we made the decision to support Chairman Peterson’s package.”

For an organization that wrote the book on consensus-building, the decision posed a major dilemma for the Cotton Council, said Pucheu, who was accompanied to the meeting by NCC Vice Chairman Larry McClendon and former Chairman Woody Anderson.

“There was no time to contact the American Cotton Producers or even the Council board for what was a significant decision,” said Pucheu. “Basically, we had to consider our options and give them a decision at the close of the meeting.”

The NCC chairman said he was convinced it was the right decision. “The House leadership carried out their commitment during the floor debate of the bill, starting first with a rule limiting amendments to 31 and their support throughout the remainder of the process.

“There is no doubt we would have faced much tighter payment limit restrictions, had we tried to do this on our own. If there is any doubt, all we have to do is look at the groups who are claiming that the current payment limit package doesn’t constitute real reform.”

Although the House-passed rules could have a significant impact on some farm operations, American Cotton Producers members seemed to be supportive of the legislation because it helped prevent even more draconian measures.

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