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July 2, 2010

 

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GA FARM BUREAU MEMBER TESTIFIES AT FARM BILL HEARING

Worth County Farm Bureau Director Johnny Cochran testifies at Senate Farm Bill Hearing

 

MACON, Ga. – Having a stable and effective farm policy is crucial to the economic success of rural communities, Georgia Farm Bureau member and Worth County Farm Bureau Director Johnny Cochran said while testifying at the farm bill hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in Washington, D.C., June 30.

 

“The production, processing and marketing of peanuts and cotton are the cornerstones of the economy in my rural home county,” Cochran, of Sylvester, said. “That’s why a predictable and stable farm policy is important to me and my neighbors.”

 

In his written testimony submitted to the Senate Agriculture Committee, Cochran explained that farms and businesses directly involved in the production, distribution and processing of cotton employ almost 21,000 workers throughout Georgia and produce direct business revenue of $2.6 billion. Georgia’s peanut industry employs about 50,000 workers and adds $2 billion in direct revenue to Georgia’s economy, Cochran stated in his written testimony.

 

Cochran testified at the invitation of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Cochran, a fourth generation cotton and peanut producer who also raises timber and cattle on his family farm has farmed through six farm bills.

 

“When it comes to farming, Johnny is the real deal,” Sen. Chambliss said when introducing Cochran at the hearing. “He does get dirt under his finger nails and is extremely active in agriculture.”

 

Cochran told the Senate Agriculture Committee that to be effective, federal farm policy must be market-oriented, allow for full production, provide a predictable, effective financial safety net, ensure the availability of competitively-priced peanuts and cotton to domestic and international end-users and should allow participation without regard to farm size or structure.

 

“The 2008 farm bill made historic changes to payment limitations and program eligibility. I understand these reforms, but commercial-size, [family-owned] farming operations like mine need to be eligible for farm programs, ” Cochran said.

 

While testifying, Cochran explained why the marketing loan program is so important to cotton and peanut producers saying, “It gives lenders the confidence to provide operating loans, and it provides growers the opportunity to make orderly marketing decisions.”

 

When answering a follow-up question about marketing loans from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Cochran further explained saying, “Marketing loan programs for cotton and peanuts are very important to us because it allows us to market our crops over a nine-month period and to have cash flow as we harvest our crops.”

 

Cochran asked the Senate Agriculture Committee to include language in the next farm bill that will ensure the USDA implements the peanut marketing loan program as Congress intended it to.

 

“Unfortunately, the [peanut] marketing loan has not functioned as it was intended because USDA has not followed the Committee’s direction to consider international prices when calculating the peanut loan repayment rate. Thus, the USDA repayment rate we see on Tuesday afternoon is not accurate,” Cochran said. “I ask the Committee to include language in the next farm bill that will assure that the prices our international competitors are selling peanuts for will be considered in establishing the repayment rate.”

 

Cochran also gave testimony regarding crop insurance saying, “Crop insurance is an essential risk management tool for producers. I believe crop insurance should always be considered a complement to good commodity programs, not a substitute.”

 

In his submitted written testimony, Cochran elaborated on the issue of crop insurance recommending that the USDA Risk Management Agency adopt rate-setting procedures that recognize investments growers make to reduce risk and reward farmers who practice risk-reducing production practices such as planting improved varieties and utilizing good soil and water conservation practices to increase productivity.

 

Cochran also recommended that the final planting date for peanuts be extended beyond the current deadline of May 31 since University of Georgia research has shown later planting dates for peanuts offer advantages in crop quality.

 

“We appreciate Sen. Chambliss asking Johnny to testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee regarding how the current farm bill affects Georgia’s cotton and peanut farmers,” Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said. “This is a busy time of year for row crop farmers, and we appreciate Johnny leaving his farm to testify in Washington.”

 

Founded in 1937, Georgia Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization in the state. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB also has 20 commodity advisory committees that give the organization input on issues pertinent to the major commodities grown in Georgia.

 

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For a high-resolution photo of Johnny Cochran testifying, click here.

 

CUTLINE FOR COCHRAN TESTIFYING: Georgia Farm Bureau member Johnny Cochran (center) testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry regarding the effectiveness of the current farm bill during a hearing held June 30 in Washington, D.C.