Farm Policy/Legislative Affairs

Legislative Affairs

Major activities carried out during 2012.

Farm Legislation

coley testimony farm bill hearing

Chuck Coley testified at a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee farm bill hearing.

The NCC was active in conveying its farm policy priorities throughout 2012. That included industry leaders testifying at a number of Congressional hearings.

In early February, Chuck Coley, who was then NCC vice chairman, joined Jimmy Dodson, then Chairman of American Cotton Producers, and leaders from 12 other farm and commodity organizations in meetings with USDA and Congressional members to: 1) discuss 2012 farm policy priorities, 2) hear key policymakers' perspectives and 3) work toward consensus on future U.S. farm policy. Coley emphasized the NCC's support for the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) proposal. The group declared they were committed to work together to come up with a viable farm policy and stated that Congress should pass and the President should sign a strong new farm bill into law in 2012.

At a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee hearing regarding reauthorization of the 2008 farm law that focused on conservation, Senator John Boozman (R-AR) asked for a statement by Coley detailing the NCC's views on conservation be included in the record. Prior to that hearing, the NCC joined other commodity groups in a letter to Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), which said, "The conservation efforts in the Farm Bill are critical to a strong economy, healthy and productive rural lands and vibrant communities. We applaud your efforts to simplify these programs, keeping the same tools but merging them into fewer programs."

Coley later testified at a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee farm bill hearing. He stated that the U.S. cotton industry believes a revenue insurance program that supplements existing insurance products would provide an important and affordable tool -- especially given the weather uncertainties and risks that farmers face.

After that Committee approved a farm bill, the NCC expressed its appreciation for producing legislation that included cotton industry-supported provisions. Coley did express U.S. cotton industry concerns with that bill's provisions regarding new lower payment limits, a significantly lower Adjusted Gross Income eligibility test and changes to the actively engaged in farming provisions used to determine eligibility for revenue and loan programs. He also noted that the Committee-reported bill did not include program choices that would meet rice and peanut growers' needs.

Cotton's priorities also were communicated on the House side.

Coley's testimony at a House Agriculture Committee's General Farm Commodities & Risk Management Subcommittee hearing noted that it was critically important that new farm law provide certainty to those involved in production agriculture because "they make long-term investment decisions based in part on federal farm policy."

bowen flowers test

Bowen Flowers of Mississippi, far right, was among a group of cotton producers who testified at one of the four House Agriculture Committee farm bill field hearings.

Earlier, a group of cotton producers testified at one of the four farm bill field hearings conducted by the full House Agriculture Committee. Eight of the ten witnesses at the Committee's hearing in Jonesboro, AR, were multi-row crop producers, and included cotton producers: Dow Brantley, England, AR, and Randy Veach, Manila, AR; Walt Corcoran, Eufaula, AL; Tim Burch, Newton, GA; Bowen Flowers, Clarksdale, MS; Paul Combs, Kennett, MO; and John Owen, Rayville, LA.With cotton as their primary focus, the testimonies of Corcoran and Flowers emphasized the need for completion of a farm bill this year as those involved in production agriculture make long-term investment decisions based on federal farm policy. It was noted that the combination of the marketing loan, Direct Payments and Counter-cyclical Payments has provided a good safety net, and in recent years, has required minimal federal spending. The need for sound crop insurance and risk management tools in new farm legislation was conveyed along with support of the NCC's STAX proposal, the revenue-based crop insurance product would replace the direct and counter-cyclical payments for cotton, thus directly addressing one of the programs found to be at fault in the World Trade Organization dispute with Brazil.

At the House Agriculture Committee field hearing in Dodge City, KS, Texas cotton producer Woody Anderson urged passage of a farm bill that would provide effective risk management opportunities. The former NCC chairman and current NCC Board advisor noted that the high costs of seed, fertilizer, fuel and other inputs coupled with weather vagaries had made crop production risk never greater.

Following mark-up, the NCC issued a statement extending its appreciation to that Committee's Chairman, Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), for their introduction of farm legislation that included cotton industry-supported provisions. The NCC also congratulated them for their success in moving the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) through that Committee with no significant changes. The NCC was especially grateful to the Committee for including STAX with provisions consistent with the industry's proposal and the new Supplemental Coverage Option enhancement to crop insurance in the final package. The NCC also commended the Committee for not: 1) accepting any amendments to further restrict program eligibility, 2) reducing payment limitations or 3) imposing limitations on marketing loan benefits.

The NCC was active in conveying its farm policy priorities throughout 2012. That included industry leaders testifying at a number of Congressional hearings.

woody anderson farm bill testimony

Texas cotton producer Woody Anderson also testified at a House Agriculture Committee farm bill field hearing.

The NCC joined 45 other organizations on a letter to House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging them to schedule time, as soon as possible, for the FARRM Act on the House floor. The groups stated that they were united in their view that the bill should receive floor time and be finalized in 2012, on schedule.

In other farm policy activity, the NCC

  • published on its website a USDA fact sheet that explained the current requirements for farm program eligibility relative to a producer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). While most of the provisions for the AGI means test remained unchanged with regard to non-farm and farm income, a recent legislative change effective for the 2012 crop implemented an additional $1 million means test – one that included all income, farm and non-farm, and that was applicable only to direct payments.
  • asked Congressional leaders to work to remove, during floor consideration, language from the FY13 agriculture spending bill (H.R. 5973) approved by the House Appropriations Committee. The language included an amendment introduced by Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that would have made individuals or legal entities with an adjusted gross income of more than $250,000 ineligible for farm program benefits.

Legislative Affairs

The NCC sent a letter to the members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee urging opposition to any amendment in the FY13 agriculture appropriations bill that would undermine the U.S.-Brazil Framework Agreement.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure that included funding for the cotton pests account which provides cost-share for boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs at $15.97 million as requested by the NCC. The legislation also authorized USDA's Farm Service Agency to continue to make up to $100 million in loans available to the eradication programs.

The NCC coalesced with a large number of commodity, general farm, livestock and agribusiness organizations on multiple letters to the House and Senate urging prompt action to ensure that the existing estate tax provisions were not allowed to expire on December 31. Later, Congress was urged to take immediate action to permanently renew the current estate tax provision -- a move that will give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to conduct business.

blue jeans

The NCC urged Senators’ strong support of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization legislation’s Cantwell/Graham amendment, which could create additional financing avenues for the textile and apparel global supply chain.

The NCC remained active in a coalition of commodity and general farm organizations working with farm equipment and GPS manufacturers to ensure GPS services and precision agriculture were not adversely affected by LightSquared. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to block LightSquared's planned nationwide wireless network. The NCC submitted comments to help ensure that the FCC proceeds with withdrawing its waiver that modifies LightSquared's license to prohibit them from building a ground-based wireless network that would interfere with GPS usage.

The NCC joined with the National Council of Textile Organizations and the American Apparel & Footwear Association on a letter to Senators urging their strong support of Export-Import Bank Reauthorization legislation that was expected to be considered as an amendment to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act or JOBS Act. Specifically, the organizations expressed strong support for the Cantwell/Graham amendment, which included important legislative text that would create additional financing avenues for the textile and apparel global supply chain. However, the Senate voted not to debate the amendment, essentially preventing it from being included in House legislation.

The NCC supported language in the House/Senate Conference Report for the Surface Transportation Extension Act that contained several agricultural exemptions, including those for farm vehicles that would otherwise limit hours of service and the traditional requirements for commercial licenses.

Prior to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s markup and eventual approval of the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, the NCC joined 12 other organizations on a letter to that panel’s chairman and ranking member, Representatives John Mica (R-FL), and Nick Rahall (D-WV) expressing support for the legislation. That bill directed the EPA administrator to raise exemption levels for a single fuel container at any farm from 1,320 gallons to 10,000 gallons and allowed for self-certification with storage capacity levels of greater than 10,000 gallons but less than 42,000 gallons, providing the facility has experienced no spills. A professional engineer would be required to write a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan if a single container capacity exceeded 10,000 gallons or total storage capacity exceeded 42,000 gallons or if the farm or facility has experienced a spill.

The NCC joined a coalition of agricultural groups that asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase Missouri River flow to retain Mississippi River levels that could support barge traffic. The group also asked the President, through the Stafford Act, to declare an emergency and direct the Corps to immediately remove rock pinnacles and release such water from the Missouri River reservoirs as necessary to preserve commercial navigation on the Mississippi River.

The NCC joined another coalition representing U.S. manufacturers, farmers, wholesalers, retailers, and transportation and logistics in expressing to the President deep concerns about the labor situation in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. They urged the Administration to quickly engage in the dispute to end the work stoppage at the ports and help the parties in their negotiations.

In other legislative affairs, the NCC

  • submitted comments to Department of Labor (DOL) rulemaking regarding the revision of child labor regulations in agricultural and non-agricultural occupations. The DOL dropped a proposed provision that a farm be required to be owned directly by the parents of a minor working on that farm. Eventually, the DOL announced that a proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 working in agriculture would not be pursued for the Obama Administration’s duration. Rather, the DOL announced it intended to work with rural stakeholders to develop an educational program to promote safe agricultural practices.
  • conveyed appreciation to Michael Scuse for his full cooperation and assistance after he was named as USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.
  • participated with other commodity groups in a meeting with USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) to discuss 2013 crop insurance premium rates and provided members with rate information as it was generated by the RMA.