NCC Working to Improve Cotton Yield/Quality; Shape Future Farm Policy
National Cotton Council President Robert McLendon told 2001 Beltwide Cotton Production Conference attendees here today that the NCC is devoting considerable resources to technology advances, including efforts to improve cotton yield and quality.
ANAHEIM, CA, Jan. 10 - National Cotton Council President Robert McLendon told 2001 Beltwide Cotton Production Conference attendees here today that the NCC is devoting considerable resources to technology advances, including efforts to improve cotton yield and quality.
That effort is necessary because a combination of yield and quality losses has "wrung most of the profits out of cotton production in recent years," and "world prices continue to languish below production costs," he said. "Together we have to find some solutions and we have to do it quickly."
McLendon's remarks opened the NCC-coordinated 2001 Beltwide Cotton Conferences, which are being held Jan. 10-13. Nearly 4,000 are attending this unique information-share forum, including cotton producers, ginners, scientists, extension personnel, consultants, agribusiness representatives and others.
The Leary, GA, producer's report, which prefaced separate producer-led panel discussions of cotton variety improvement and fiber quality, described NCC-supported yield and quality objectives that he said are fundamental to improving the U.S. cotton industry's profitability and maintaining its competitive edge.
"These quality and yield objectives must be a part of our overall strategy and must not be overlooked as we continue to press for second and third generation developments in genetic improvements," McLendon said.
He said the NCC's Quality Task Force is advancing quality and yield in tandem. That panel is getting more involved in cottonseed breeding programs by state researchers, he said, to encourage more participation in localized breeding programs and ensure the maintenance of publicly developed strains as public property.
"Many industry leaders have voiced their concern that the basic genetic components of today's dominant varieties may not be stress-tolerant," McLendon said. "A major concern is that cottonseed breeding programs that have focused on genetic modifications or obtaining other specific fiber properties may have lost seed vigor in the process."
McLendon pointed to boll weevil eradication, Bt cotton commercialization and 12-row equipment as examples of the value that technology offers cotton farmers. He encouraged conferees to take full advantage of the technology reported on during this year’s conferences and reminded them that restoration of industry profitability hinges on: expanding U.S. cotton markets; reducing production, processing and distribution costs; and maintaining a healthy policy partnership with the federal government.
Regarding farm policy, which may be amended or rewritten prior to its scheduled expiration following the 2002 crop, McLendon said he came away from a recent meeting with President Elect Bush, Vice President Elect Cheny and Agriculture Secretary nominee, Ann Veneman, with the impression that the new Administration will be supportive of policy adjustments aimed at shoring up producer income.
He said NCC leadership agrees that certain provisions of current farm law need to be retained, including: our marketing loan keyed to the world cotton price, the three-step competitiveness program, and planting flexibility. They also agree that new farm law should provide a better income safety net. McLendon said a special NCC industrywide farm policy committee continues to evaluate policy options with the goal of developing consensus on specific program recommendations to be presented during early February House hearings on commodity titles.
Among options the committee will try to reach consensus on in advance of Congressional hearings on commodity titles are: 1) the best payment form, whether it should be the current fixed, de-coupled payments, or keyed (coupled) to acreage or production or a combination of coupled and de-coupled; and 2) whether payment bases and yields should be re-computed.
"Of course, we’ll have to examine all the proposed delivery systems in light of what’s legal under World Trade Organization rules," McLendon said.
He said because many countries will continue to outspend the U.S. by substantial margins even after negotiated WTO agricultural subsidy reductions, a healthy partnership between the U.S. government and U.S. agriculture is an absolute necessity. It also underscores the importance of "our maintaining a strong, unified voice through the Council as new farm policy is debated in the months ahead."