Wednesday, August 31, 2011
In 'seismic shift,' cotton growers prefer insurance over direct payments, ever more on chopping block
"A decision by the National Cotton Council to lobby for a revenue-based crop insurance program in the next Farm Bill may be the latest indication that direct payments, a fixture of U.S. agricultural policy since the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act, are headed for the chopping block," the Washington newsletter Agri-Pulse reports. "The NCC, a staunch proponent of the fixed, annual payments made to growers of so-called 'program' crops - cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and rice – concluded last week that a likely downsizing of agriculture’s budget baseline in the name of deficit reduction" would so undermine direct payments "that alternatives must be evaluated to ensure growers have access to the most effective safety net."
A spokesman for the Environmental Working Group, a leading critic of farm subsidies, called the switch "kind of a seismic shift." It reflects advice cotton growers got in 2008 from Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., then the chairman of the House Agrioculture Committee, "to move toward a safety net anchored by crop insurance."
The prospect of major deficit reduction legislation means “We may have a Farm Bill in the next two months,” Joe Outlaw, co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University, told Agri-Pulse. He said “There are so many different plans out there now,” so production-agriculture interests are unlikely to coalesce behind a single risk-management plan, such as the one being assemble by Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
This gets pretty complicated, but Agri-Pulse has the details. It's a subscrption-only newsletter, but it offers a four-week free trial.