Skip to main content

Game On: The Quest for a 2024 Farm Bill

By Kody Bessent, CEO Plains Cotton Growers

Whether you grow the food and clothes or eat and wear them, the farm bill should be important to you. Every five years, Congress works on this legislative package, which governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Historically, farm bills focused on farm commodity support. However, changes began in the 1973 legislation and took off from there. It’s evolved over time to include nutrition, conservation, horticulture, credit, trade, as well as research and development.

Recent farm bills have faced legislative adversity, increasing in intensity each time a new one is written. From Congressional haggling and presidential vetoes, to political uncertainly and a diversity of commodities with needs unique to a single crop or region, it’s always a marathon of compromise to pass a farm bill that will represent all commodities, producers, and consumers.

The Lay of the Land

While I could say the farm bill process will be different this time, that wouldn’t be fair to you — especially given the fact that it was supposed to pass in 2023. However, I can lay out the optics as we understand the political landscape today. I can say the cotton industry is firmly in lockstep — from the producer to the end-user segment — on our farm policy initiatives to create a more effective safety net for all.

The cotton industry meets annually to discuss, debate, and ultimately adopt our industry initiatives to convey before Congress. This process can take years to develop. What makes cotton unique is all seven segments — producers, ginners, warehousers, merchants, cottonseed, cooperatives and manufactures — must agree on our initiatives before we move forward in one unified voice. That being said, the cotton industry is pursuing the following policy initiatives for the upcoming farm bill.

2024 Farm Bill Cotton Farm Policy Initiatives:

  • Increase ARC/PLC seed cotton reference price to better reflect current cost of production;
  • Improve access to the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX);
  • Urge the accelerated development of federally assisted insurance or other risk management programs for cotton infrastructure to help mitigate the risk of losses associated with lack of throughput due to natural disaster;
  • Modernize the Upland cotton marketing assistance loan program;
  • Add marketing loan provisions for Extra Long Staple (ELS) cotton; and
  • Restore the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills (EAATM) program.

Next Steps

Both chambers have released overviews of their prospective legislation for the 2024 Farm Bill. House Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) has scheduled a markup for the House’s initial version for May 23. As of press time, the Senate has not announced when their work will begin. While the initial bill may not look like the final product, this will set the pace and tone for how the farm bill process plays out over the next several months.

Putting aside fighting between and within parties (it’s an election year, and a big one at that, so much is to be expected in that regard), the cotton industry needs to keep their eye on the ball. We need to keep advancing the cotton industry’s policy initiatives and not get hung up in the political rhetoric. We must work with Congress to pass a farm bill that is meaningful and timely — the industry depends on it.

Can a farm bill be accomplished in 2024? Many continue to say that it will not. Shame on the naysayers for even starting that narrative. I believe it can — producers and industry alike are counting on it. At the end of the day, I believe producers and industry will be proud of the policy that is adopted and implemented. It will reflect the years of hard work we have all put in to better our industry through changes in cost of production, business and, ultimately, the agriculture economy.