Some major successes in 2003 give the cotton industry plenty to be proud off. But the cotton industry will continue to face important challenges in 2004, National Cotton Council (NCC) president Robert Greene told attendees during his Jan. 6th opening remarks at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
One important legislative success this year was NCCâ€™s efforts to defend agricultureâ€™s share of federal spending as spelled out in the 2002 Farm Bill, which came under fierce opposition from critics during the past year.
"The Council defense of the 2002 Farm Bill was a primary focus during 2003, beginning with the budget debate and continuing throughout the process of developing agricultural appropriations," Greene said. "During consideration of the budget we worked closely with Cotton Belt Congressional members, urging conferees to maintain spending levels consistent with current farm law, and opposing any altering provisions that might be offered."
NCC waged a vigorous campaign, Greene said, in its issues education effort of Congressional members, aimed at repudiating farm bill critics. He specifically noted the Environmental Working Group and Oxfam as agricultural opponents. When the final budget came through, agriculture had held its ground, avoiding any farm bill amendments.
The work goes on, says Greene. NCCâ€™s work to raise more money to support the "reelections of cottonâ€™s friends in Congress" paid off and could result in a strengthened cotton industry.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) was an especially difficult challenge in 2003. On one hand NCC argued Chinaâ€™s trade practices were unfair to U.S. farmers. On the other hand, they had to defend the U.S. cotton program against "a serious WTO complaint by Brazil". That battle and balancing act continues to evolve. It is inevitable that WTO challenges will be an ongoing effort in 2004.
Greene also pointed out NCCâ€™s cotton quality improvement effort. NCCâ€™s Quality Task Force made the recommendation that cotton bales have no more than 7.5% moisture content in an effort to improve fiber color and quality. NCC also worked to educate growers on the importance and techniques for avoiding cotton contamination.
The campaign to eradicate the boll weevil continued to make headway. Greene said the pink bollworm eradication effort also made encouraging advances in its initial efforts in the Southwest.
Among other initiatives, Greene noted these NCC accomplishments:
- Worked to hammer out a $3.1 billion disaster assistance program, including $50 million for cottonseed market assistance for the 2002 crop;
- Urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quickly implement the Conservation Security Program;
- Worked on and supported legislation that could streamline immigration process for agricultural workers.
The NCC is the sponsor of the Beltwide Cotton Conferences. For more information, check out NCC's Beltwide Web site. And make sure to check back with this Web site for continued updates on the Beltwide Cotton Conferences.