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Farm Bill: Critical to Cotton

Gary Adams
National Cotton Council CEO

Prior to and throughout 2023, the National Cotton Council focused on policy development for the 2023 farm bill. The farm bill is a multi-year law that governs various agricultural and food programs and is critical to the cotton industry. The legislation, which is typically renewed every five years, allows policymakers to address agricultural and food issues periodically. In addition to developing and enacting farm legislation, Congress monitors the implementation of the legislation by USDA.

With many provisions of the existing farm bill set to expire by at the end of 2023, the House and Senate leadership recently extended the 2018 farm bill for another year. This extension will give U.S. cotton producers certainty and support for next year’s planting season. The NCC will continue to diligently work with the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to secure a five-year farm bill as quickly as possible in 2024.

The NCC has actively conveyed to Congress and the Administration its priorities for a meaningful farm bill with an effective safety net and comprehensive risk management tools. Throughout the year, NCC staff educated dozens of new Congressional Members about production agriculture’s contributions to the national economy, the need for a strong farm law and the challenges facing U.S. agriculture.

Our overarching message continues to be that the general structure of the 2018 Farm Bill has served the industry well. For the producer, the choice of ARC/PLC programs and the availability of a full suite of crop insurance products are critical to their economic viability. However, the surge in production costs has reduced the effectiveness of the current safety net. The ag committees need additional budget resources to provide programs that can effectively address the costs and risks faced both on the farm and throughout the supply chain.

In April, NCC Chairman Shawn Holladay conveyed the industry’s priorities at a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, and in May, Council Director Patrick Johnson presented those priorities at a hearing of a Senate Agriculture subcommittee.

The NCC, as well as many national/regional cotton organizations, joined 400 other agriculture groups on a letter to the House and Senate budget committees’ leader- ship requesting sufficient budgetary resources to write a new bipartisan, multi-year, comprehensive and meaningful farm bill.

Earlier this year, the NCC, along with more than 50 other agricultural associations, sent a letter to Administration leaders and to leadership of the House and Senate budget and appropriations committees, urging them to protect crop insurance programs from any cuts during this year’s appropriations process. The letter noted that with ongoing weather events and market disruptions, it is as important as ever to protect the rural safety net.

Later, a group of NCC leadership representatives were in Washington, DC, for meetings on Capitol Hill to advocate for cotton industry priorities. The NCC delegation met with more than 20 Senators and Representatives, including the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees, to emphasize that the NCC would like to see reforms in the next farm bill that raise the seed cotton reference price; eliminate the current prohibition on joint PLC/STAX enrollment; modernize the Marketing Assistance Loan Program; provide greater support for the Pima industry; and restore the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills rate to its original value.

To meet the aforementioned goals, the NCC must keep in place a well-funded Political Action Committee. This committee supplements our efforts to raise awareness about the U.S. cotton industry’s importance to this nation’s economic health among our nation’s lawmakers, particularly newly-elected Congressional Members. The Committee for the Advancement of Cotton was founded in 1975 and is sponsored by the NCC. The CAC receives contributions from industry members who voluntarily pool their resources to support candidates whose views and voting records are in step with the cotton industry’s priorities. Over the last decade, CAC has nearly doubled its contribution level from just over $300,000 in collections in 2012 to reaching its highest fundraising total ever in 2022 at over $595,000, far exceeding the annual goal of $519,000. When combined with other PACs, the NCC and our members have access to over $891,000 in political resources.

A beacon of this fundraising success was the launch of the CAC Night of Cotton on the Friday evening during the NCC Annual Meeting. The CAC Night of Cotton brings the cotton industry together through an evening of fun, live karaoke music, and a live auction. Members purchase tickets to the event which includes an opportunity to win additional prizes. There is also a silent auction throughout the NCC Annual Meeting. The silent auction combined with the CAC Night of Cotton raised $128,500 for CAC in 2023.

CAC has tremendous partnerships through the cooperative segment as well as member gins who voluntarily collect contributions from a portion of the marketing proceeds of their members and customers. This has allowed the CAC to reach many more NCC members.

Funding for campaigns has been a feature of the political process throughout U.S. history, but the cost to run a campaign has increased dramatically in recent years. It will be very important to have a strong PAC going into the 2024 elections. It is imperative that we have essential funds to ensure that we have legislators who will address the priorities of the cotton industry.

Against the backdrop of these challenges, the U.S. cotton industry will continue to work not only for improvements in the government safety net, but also enhanced market opportunities. The successes of past years demonstrate that relief from the difficult economic conditions can be achieved by a unified industry. The work is not finished, and industry members’ support will allow the National Cotton Council to continue to be a voice for U.S. cotton.