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Decisive Diligence in ‘08


By Larry McClendon
NCC Chairman

The new farm bill and world trade negotiations again received a large share of the National Cotton Council’s attention during 2008 – both of which will affect the U.S. cotton industry this year and beyond.

What were key actions regarding the new farm bill?

The NCC worked closely with Congress to ensure the development and passage of a bill that would undergird commercial agriculture. We conveyed loud and clear that no significant reform was necessary for the new farm bill, particularly in the areas of payment limits and eligibility. Following the bill’s passage, the NCC – supported by cotton interest organizations – conducted 45 farm law information meetings across the Cotton Belt.

The NCC also worked closely with both Congress and the Administration to ensure the farm bill’s timely implementation – underscoring our message that no changes in regulations should be initiated where Congress did not alter existing legislation. Specifically, we supported a bipartisan group of Congressional members who wrote Agriculture Secretary Schafer urging that no unwarranted change be made to the determination of “actively engaged in farming” and asking USDA to expedite publishing rules and regulations pertaining to new adjusted gross income and payment eligibility re-forms. The NCC’s fight for the program regulations’ release resulted in their publication before the end of October, which ensured that 2007 crop loans maturing before October’s end could be redeemed in accordance with the new adjustments to competitiveness provisions. Following the December release of the interim rules for payment limitations and program eligibility, the NCC filed extensive comments.

How did the NCC respond to World Trade Organization negotiations?

The WTO Doha Round required intense monitoring by NCC staff as well as aggressive communication with the U.S. Trade Represen-tative’s office. During agriculture negotiations in July, the NCC was in Geneva to push for a balanced agreement, in terms of reductions in domestic support and increases in market access, and to ensure cotton was not unfairly singled out. We also were vocal in our opposition to Director General Lamy’s rush to conclude the talks before year’s end. When the Doha negotiations resume later in 2009, it will be very important that Lamy’s proposal not be the starting point for the talks. We will continue to press for balance between reductions in domestic support and increased market access.

In what other areas was NCC active in 2008?

The NCC’s coordination with agribusiness, USDA and EPA ensured a wide range of conventional crop protection products remained available. The NCC will continue to participate in a number of agriculture coalitions that work in support of reasonable regulations for both conventional and biotechnology products. Also in 2008, both The Cotton Foundation and Cotton Council International (CCI) provided strong support for NCC priorities. CCI was involved in a number of major initiatives that actively involved customers worldwide, including China, to build demand for U.S. cotton.

Guided by the NCC’s exceptional leadership and dedicated staff, I believe our industry is well-positioned to weather the challenging business environment that emerged this past year.

Larry McClendon is a Marianna, Ark., producer/ginner who is the outgoing chairman of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this page.

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