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Senate Farm Bill Draws Ire of National Cotton Council

The National Cotton Council (NCC), which represents the U.S. cotton supply chain, has expressed concerned over “shortcomings” in the Senate version of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 regarding funding of key measures, like a crop insurance program.

One of those shortcomings in the Act, generally known as the Farm Bill, according to NCC, involves the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program (EAAP), which provides assistance to regions experiencing adverse economic changes like factory closings or environmental changes and regulations. That program, which was eliminated in the version of the Farm Bill voted out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, wound up with three years of full funding restored in the final Senate legislation passed last Thursday.

“While that is a step in the right direction, the NCC strongly believes that it is critically important to fully restore the funding for EAAP, which continues to help U.S. textile manufacturers stay competitive,” NCC said.

The NCC lauded Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kansas) for his leading the effort to preserve the Agriculture Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage (ARC/PLC) programs and the marketing loan program. But the umbrella organization for the U.S. cotton industry said it was “extremely concerned about a damaging amendment by Senator Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) included in the Senate’s farm bill that will harm family farms across the country and make the farm law’s safety net less effective.”

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The amendment tightens the restrictions on farm management contributions for commodity program eligibility, and according to NCC, the House version of the farm bill more fully addresses the policy needs of the U.S. cotton and textile industries, as well as family farming operations.

For his part, Roberts said, “Today marks an important day for farm country. We are one step closer to providing farmers and ranchers a Farm Bill with the certainty and predictability they deserve.”

Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), said, “The 2018 Senate Farm Bill proves that bipartisanship is a tried and true approach to getting things done. By working across the aisle, we crafted a Farm Bill that strengthens our diverse agricultural economy.”

When the legislation passed the House, NCC chairman Ron Craft applauded getting it through without potentially damaging amendments that could have compromised crop insurance or impose stricter payment limits and provisions for eligibility.

“Without strong commodity and crop insurance policies underpinning U.S. agriculture, lenders would be reluctant to provide financing to an industry operating at the mercy of weather extremes and volatile global market prices,” Craft said.

The NCC said it “looks forward to working with its supporters in the House and Senate throughout the conference committee process to achieve the U.S. cotton industry’s policy priorities in the final legislation.”

Since the measures passed by the House and Senate differ, a joint-chamber conference committee must craft compromise legislation and put it up for fresh votes. NCC said it will be working to ensure that final legislation, addresses the certain differences from the House version also passed last month.