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New Five-Year Farm Bill Gets Nod From Cotton Industry

The National Cotton Council (NCC) said Tuesday it strongly supports the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, after House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders released the conference report, clearing the way for final Congressional review and passage.

NCC urged Congress to quickly pass the measure and for the president to sign it into law. A new five-year farm bill will bring some much-needed certainty and predictability to the U.S. cotton industry, NCC said.

The bill includes many of the cotton industry’s policy priorities, including continuation of the Seed Cotton ARC/PLC program, full access to the marketing loan program, full funding for textile competitiveness programs, effective crop insurance products, no reduction in arbitrary payment limits and addresses overly restrictive family-farm eligibility requirements, NCC noted.

This adjustment to the “family definition” for farm programs will help resolve the unintended and punitive restrictions that resulted from changes made by the 2014 Farm Law and ensure that all family farms are treated equitably, NCC said. In addition, the bill includes a yield update opportunity for all producers that will better align program yields with current production levels.

The continued safety net of the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs is especially crucial, as many parts of the Cotton Belt have faced devastating natural disasters this growing season, compounding producers’ financial strains from retaliatory trade tariffs on U.S. cotton, NCC said. Hurricanes Florence and Michael both effected the Southeast cotton-growing region, causing crop and property damage.

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The new farm bill culminates years of work and commitment by members of Congress and their staff to update and improve current farm policy within the existing budget resources available, according to the NCC.

“Following Congressional passage and the president’s signature, the NCC looks forward to working with Secretary Perdue and the USDA team on timely implementation of this important legislation,” said NCC chairman Ron Craft, a ginner from Plains, Tex.

In other federal action involving agriculture, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) lauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Clean Water Rule, which replaces the 2015 Waters of the United States rule.

“EPA’s new Clean Water Rule is a positive step forward for manufacturers, for our country and for responsible environmental stewardship,” NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons said. “Manufacturers rely on clean water for everything from growing agricultural inputs to engineering green chemistry and providing renewable power. We simply ask for regulatory certainty. The uncertainty created by the overreaching and unfair 2015 WOTUS rule threatened manufacturing jobs and it failed to protect clean water adequately. Smart water policy is critical for all of us, and manufacturers are committed to keeping our promise to use the certainty we have been given to do our part to make our water and air cleaner.”

Environmental groups said the new EPA rule was a set back. The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) it would wrongly exempt oil drillers, industrial sites, developers and “other polluters from programs that protect critical water bodies from harm.”

“The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward polluting industries and endanger our most treasured resources,” Jon Devine, director for the Federal Water Program at the NRDC, said. “Given the problems facing our lakes, streams and wetlands from the beaches of Florida to the drinking water of Toledo, now is the time to strengthen protections for our waterways, not weaken them.”

On the Farm Bill, however, NRDC praised Congressional negotiators for compromise legislation “that largely steers clear of undercutting bedrock environmental protections.”

“The final farm bill is an enormous improvement over the partisan train wreck passed by the House [in May],” Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at the NRDC, said. “Many poison pills are gone that would have axed protections covering endangered species, pesticides, clean water and food for hungry individuals. While the final bill still contains some problematic provisions, we are thankful that our champions defeated many of the worst proposals.”