Farm Law Changes, Tighter Payment Limits Would Harm Texas and U.S. Agriculture

At a farm bill listening session in Lubbock, nearly 30 individual cotton producers and allied industry representatives stressed to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns the importance of maintaining the 2002 farm law's structure and why that law should be the foundation for U.S. farm policy beyond 2007.

October 6, 2005
Contact: Marjory Walker
(901) 274-9030

LUBBOCK, TX – Nearly 30 individual cotton producers and allied industry representatives offered their thoughts to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns about why they believe it is important that the structure of the 2002 farm bill be maintained for its duration – through the completion of the 2007 crop – and why the current law should be the foundation for U.S. farm policy beyond 2007.

With only one chance to present their thoughts, these Texas cotton producers communicated a very clear and unmistakable message to the Secretary during a USDA farm bill listening session on the Texas Tech University Campus on October 5.

Speaking at the listening session, Farwell, Tex., cotton producer Mark Williams told the Secretary that a stable and consistent farm program provides an essential foundation upon which growers can the make long-term investments necessary in today’s agriculture. He said that the current program provides planting flexibility to growers, an effective safety net in times of low prices and has minimal impacts on overall plantings and prices.

“Today, farmers face different risks than the vast majority of businesses,” Williams explained. “Many factors are beyond a farmer’s control: a strong dollar, unanticipated oversupply in high production years, depressed prices and destructive natural events that can wipe out an entire crop.

“An effective farm program is essential to cotton producers and provides stability in production, financing and marketing. Any policy change that would reduce the level of support directed to farmers or that imposes stricter payment limits would adversely affect beginning farmers and small operators. It is important to note that more restrictive payment limits would also hurt our international competitiveness by restricting farm size to a level that is, in many cases, less than economically efficient. Tighter payment limits are not in the best interest of either Texas or U.S. agriculture.”

Mike Wright, agriculture loan officer and executive vice president of City Bank-Texas in Lubbock, put a lender’s perspective on the farm bill’s importance.

“From a lender’s perspective, the 2002 farm bill provides a stable and predictable income that producers need,” Wright said. “Without that guarantee of support, many producers would find it difficult, if not impossible, to put together a positive cash-flow projection and obtain production financing.”

Wright adds that in the current low-price environment the safety net provided by the current farm bill continues to be critical.

South Plains, Tex., cotton producer Don Marble said, “The 2002 farm bill has proven to be one of the most effective and fiscally responsible pieces of farm legislation that I have ever seen and now is not the time to be making any changes to the current farm program.”

Wally Darneille, president and CEO of Plains Cotton Cooperative Association in Lubbock, echoed what cotton producers and other industry members stressed at the forum -- no changes to the current farm law.

“I know many farmers and other observers have told you the 2002 farm bill should not be changed when new legislation is written in 2007,” Darnielle said.  I would like to add my voice to theirs and go on record to say that we should not change something that works for all parts of our industry.”