GFB members testify before House Ag Subcommittee
By: Staff reports
4/5/2017 1:52:21 PM
Baker County Farm Bureau Director Ronnie Lee and Berrien County Farm Bureau Vice President Tim McMillan testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management during the body's hearing "The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy Part II," held April 4 in Washington.
Lee, who is chairman of the National Cotton Council, testified on behalf of the nation's cotton farmers, urging that cotton be brought back into the farm bill commodity title.
Lee said market volatility and mounting economic pressures have left cotton farmers in desperate need of an improved safety net, with commodity prices remaining below levels that cover production costs. Lee noted USDA statistics indicating that 19 percent of cotton farms are considered either highly or extremely highly leveraged. Lee asked that cottonseed be designated as an other oilseed, making it eligible for farm bill commodity programs and providing temporary relief for cotton farmers while the new farm bill is being crafted.
Lee pointed out that approximately 75 percent of U.S. raw cotton production is exported, which makes cotton farmers particularly susceptible to conditions in international markets.
"For the past three years, U.S. cotton producers have struggled with low cotton prices, high production costs and the resulting financial hardships," Lee said. "It is imperative that the next farm bill bring back cotton to Title I so that producers are able to access the same complete set of risk management tools available to other crops."
McMillan, testifying on behalf of the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, spoke in support of maintaining the peanut provisions in the 2014 farm bill and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program in the next farm bill.
"If the PLC program had not been in place, I am afraid many farms in the Southeast would no longer exist because of the downturn in the farm economy which has plagued us the past three years," McMillan said.
McMillan contrasted current peanut commodity prices with those at the time the 2014 farm bill was drafted and pointed out USDA projection that net farm income in 2017 will be about half what it was in 2013.
"When we compare average prices in 2011-12 to 2016 prices, we see a 30 percent decline in peanut prices," McMillan said. "I see the real impact of these numbers in the faces of my neighbors and hear it in discussions with lenders and our suppliers."
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