Cotton Portion of Farm Bill Will Get Rewrite in 2018, Conaway Says

Rep. Mike Conaway made no bones about it – the cotton part of the 2014 farm bill hasn’t worked and will require an overhaul when he and the House Agriculture Committee begin writing a new farm bill in 2018.

The House Agriculture Committee chair talked about a number of issues when he addressed the Southern Peanut Growers Conference during its Saturday morning session on July 23, including providing a blueprint for defending farm bills in general at a time when such legislation is under attack.

In his comments on the Agricultural Act of 2014, Rep. Conaway said most of the farm bill will only require some fine-tuning when his committee begins work on the 2018 legislation. The exception will be the cotton portion.

“Cotton will have to be dramatically different because it just didn’t work,” he said. “The STAX program without a reference price – it just didn’t work – and cotton is in a world of hurt, right now, as most of you know.

“That led into issues with peanuts and with people growing other crops that came out of generic acres. All those things will be on the table, all those things will be up for discussion, and we’ll have that conversation with anyone who wants to have it over the next two-and-a-half years.”

Rep. Conaway said his goal – as that of every House Agriculture Committee chairman in the past 80 years – is to complete the new farm bill before the current one expires in 2018 and not have short-term extensions or “all the drama that goes along with that. We’ll see how that works out.”

He said issues with payment rates for Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs will also be addressed in the 2018 farm bill deliberations.

“We’ll have to address that in the 18 farm bill,” he said, responding to a question about what Congress could do to equalize the numbers, which can vary greatly from one county to the next. “I don’t think there’s much we can do in the interim. In the 18 farm bill, we’ll look at how FSA came up with those numbers and what’s causing those differences in payments.

“Given that this was a brand-new program across the board in the implementation phase, it’s certainly reasonable in the 2018 farm bill that we would make those kinds of fine tuning adjustments.”

Source: Forrest Laws, Southwest Farm Press

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