News Releases

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Isakson Fights for Georgia Cotton Farmers

Urges Senate Agriculture Committee to protect cotton safety-net provisions in 2018 Farm Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today led a bipartisan effort with 13 other senators to ensure current cotton policies are maintained to protect farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry voted today to send the 2018 Farm Bill to the full Senate. Isakson and his colleagues sent a letter to the committee members ahead of today’s markup and vote urging the committee to protect current policies which include seed cotton as a covered commodity so that cotton farmers are eligible for support when cotton prices are low.

Georgia is the second largest cotton-growing state in the United States, and cotton, which is the largest crop by acreage in Georgia, contributes an estimated economic value of more than $1.6 billion to Georgia’s economy.

The letter begins by urging committee members, “to oppose any amendments within committee or on the Senate Floor that would serve to weaken or eliminate important cotton policy provisions.” 

Cotton became a covered commodity under Title I in February 2018 after passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. This policy change was designed to ensure that cotton farmers had access to important safety net provisions following several consecutive years of losses that occurred after global factors and policies impacting cotton trade pressured cotton prices down. The 2014 Farm Bill did not address these unanticipated challenges, so the current policy was enacted to put cotton on par with other crops that are eligible for the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs in the current farm bill. 

The letter acknowledges that the version of the 2018 Farm Bill that was introduced in the committee continues this newly enacted policy “along with other important cotton provisions that help support the livelihoods of farm families and thousands of jobs in the cotton infrastructure and processing sectors across rural areas.”

The senators also specifically request that additional current policy programs, including the upland cotton marketing loan program, the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program for U.S. textile mills, and the Extra Long Staple cotton loan and competitiveness provisions be maintained due to their importance to “the economic viability of the industry.”

While most of the amendments that could negatively affect cotton farmers were defeated, Isakson vowed to continue fighting during floor debate to address concerns with the committee-reported language and ensure cotton farmers have the full protection that is available to other commodity growers.

“The National Cotton Council commends Senator Isakson for his years of support of the cotton industry and for leading this bipartisan letter to the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee,” said Gary Adams, president and chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council. “We look forward to working with him and all cotton belt senators as the bill moves to the Senate floor to reverse the harmful changes made to cotton policy by amendments adopted during the committee markup.”

The letter is addressed to all members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, including fellow Georgia Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. Perdue voted in favor of maintaining existing cotton policy during committee debate. 

In addition to Isakson, the letter is signed by U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Roy Blunt, R-Miss., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., James Inhofe, R-Okla., Doug Jones, D-Ala., Tim Kaine, D-Va., John Kennedy, R-La., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

The full text of the letter follows below.

Dear Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow:

As the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry prepares to consider the 2018 Farm Bill, we urge you to oppose any amendments within committee or on the Senate Floor that would serve to weaken or eliminate important cotton policy provisions.  We understand the committee had no new funds to use to develop this farm bill and the needs across agriculture and rural America are great.  However, there are no new cotton policies included in the bill, but rather a simple continuation of current policy.

Cotton producers struggled economically for the first four years of the 2014 Farm Bill due to global factors and policies impacting cotton trade that pressured cotton prices lower without an adequate safety net.  Congress addressed this policy shortcoming in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 by including budget neutral Seed Cotton policy, which places cotton on par with other crops that are eligible for the ARC/PLC programs in the current farm bill.  The committee bill continues this policy along with other important cotton provisions that help support the livelihoods of farm families and thousands of jobs in the cotton infrastructure and processing sectors across rural areas.

However, there are other cotton policies that need to be maintained and not weakened by amendments in the committee or on the floor. The upland cotton marketing loan program, the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP) for U.S. textile mills, and the Extra Long Staple (ELS) cotton loan and competitiveness provisions are important to the economic viability of the industry.

Thank you for your leadership in developing a balanced and bipartisan farm bill that can advance through the Senate.  We ask that you please work to defeat any amendments that would weaken cotton policy and upset the important balance represented by the committee’s bill.

Sincerely,

 

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