News Releases

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Isakson Urges Help for Cotton Farmers

Highlights ongoing economic struggles of Georgia cotton farming families

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., this week called on the administration to take steps to help Georgia cotton farmers and stabilize the cotton industry.

Isakson joined 25 other senators in a bipartisan letter to the president requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continue operation of the Cotton Ginning Cost Share program on an ongoing basis beginning with the 2016 crop.

Cotton accounts for 53,000 jobs and produces an overall impact of more than $3 billion in Georgia. The majority of cotton produced in Georgia is exported to other countries; therefore the industry is greatly dependent on open trade relationships with key markets. Recently, to the detriment of U.S. cotton farming families who are struggling to keep their farms operational, the market has faced unfair competition due to foreign subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, and a weakened U.S. safety net.

“The cost share program is needed to provide policy stability in the absence of a comprehensive policy for cotton in the existing farm bill to respond to deep and sustained price and revenue declines,” the senators wrote in a bipartisan letter to President Trump.

The letter continues, “Without some action by the federal government, these families will continue to see their equity erode or take on a greater debt load as they hope to keep their family farms in operation.”

USDA launched the Cotton Ginning Cost Share program in June 2016 to provide cost share assistance payments to cotton producers for the 2015 crop.

The bipartisan letter was led by U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and in addition to Isakson was signed by 23 additional senators, including Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Richard Burr, R-N.C, Bill Cassidy, R-La., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., James Inhofe, R-Okla., Tim Kaine, D-Va., John Kennedy, R-La., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Bill Nelson, D-Fla., David Perdue, R-Ga., Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Luther Strange, R-Ala., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

The letter can be accessed online here, and the full text is below:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to call attention to the ongoing economic struggles of the thousands of cotton farming families across the United States and their need for a stabilizing policy. Without some action by the federal government, these families will continue to see their equity erode or take on a greater debt load as they hope to keep their family farms in operation.

In the past decade, the U.S. cotton industry has endured a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge, increasing foreign subsidies, tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, and a weakened U.S. safety net. This is all on top of the high risk, uncertain nature of farming. In recent years, these factors have resulted in the U.S. experiencing a 30-year low in cotton planted area; global cotton prices approaching $2.00 per pound before plummeting to as low as 57 cents per pound; and record production costs outpacing market returns for the last three years.

America’s cotton farming families have been forced to compete on a global playing field heavily weighted to the advantage of competitors in countries like China and India who benefit from significant government subsidies and intervention.

In addition, U.S. cotton is not on par with the safety net available for other row crops, meaning cotton producers are much more exposed to the highly cyclical nature of commodity markets and global policy manipulations by foreign governments. This scenario is weakening the U.S. cotton industry’s infrastructure that includes farms, gins, warehouses, marketing cooperatives, merchants, cottonseed processors and merchandisers, and textile manufacturers that sustain economies across the 17-state Cotton Belt from Virginia to California. Over the past decade, the numbers of businesses involved in the ginning and warehousing of cotton have declined by 33 and 21 percent, respectively. It is imperative that we protect the remaining 20,000 businesses in this industry that employ 126,000 people and generate over $21 billion in revenue.

In an effort to help stabilize the industry, we respectfully request that the administration, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), operate on an ongoing basis the Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program beginning with the 2016 crop year. The cost share program is needed to provide policy stability in the absence of a comprehensive policy for cotton in the existing farm bill to respond to deep and sustained price and revenue declines. This cost share program was operated by the previous administration for the 2015 crop, and it is an effective and efficient means of providing economic relief to America’s cotton farming families.

We strongly support the administration taking this action and stand ready to work with you, USDA, and the cotton industry to address this important need as quickly as possible. Thank you for your consideration and support.

Sincerely,

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