U.S. Oilseeds: Production and Policy Comparison

A variety of oilseeds are grown in the U.S. and some are included as program crops in the 2014 farm bill. The most prominent oilseed is, of course, soybeans but the bill also includes a group known as “other oilseed.” The term “other oilseed” is defined to include canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sesame seed, and sunflower seed, as well as “any oilseed designated by the Secretary” (P.L. 113-79, sec. 1111(12)). This article compares the various oilseeds included as program crops on several production and policy attributes. The objective is to put into perspective the on-going discussion about whether to designate cottonseed oil as a program crop.

Background: As part of the 2014 farm bill compromise that resolved Brazil’s successful case against the U.S. cotton program at the World Trade Organization (WTO), cotton is no longer designated as a program crop. Thus, cotton is not eligible for payments from the ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) or PLC (Price Loss Coverage) programs. ARC and PLC payment however can be received if a program crop is planted on former upland cotton base and if that crop is due a payment. This is known as the “generic base” program. Many cotton producers are calling for additional assistance. One such call is a proposal to ask the Secretary of Agriculture to designate cottonseed, a co-product with cotton fiber, as an “other oilseed.” Cottonseed oil is not a crop, but a byproduct of producing cotton fibers. Zulauf, et al. contains an extended discussion of the “other oilseed” program and the cottonseed oil proposal.

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