As of March 1, the House and Senate agriculture committees are expected to begin farm bill markups in April or May after Congress completes the budget debate involving sequestration and raising the debt ceiling.

“It is believed that the starting point in each committee will be the 2012 versions of their respective bills,” Dodson said. “We expect these markups to address some significant issues.  The biggest factor obviously is what budget savings will the agriculture committees be expected to achieve.”

Other areas of debate will include the issue of producer-choice or revenue-only commodity provisions, dairy policy and the level of nutrition program savings.

“Crop insurance provisions will command considerable attention. This is of particular interest to our industry as this is where STAX will be debated along with other significant insurance programs.”

Dodson said the budget debates will provide opportunities for Congress to address the budget deficit and could define the level of budget cuts that are to be incorporated into a multi-year farm bill.

“I would also note that the Boll Weevil program is at critical stages of completion. Thanks to a very successful federal-producer partnership, we have driven the boll weevil to the Texas-Mexico border. However, this last zone is proving to be the most difficult eradication effort due to climatic conditions and the influx of weevils from Mexico.”

The Council’s Boll Weevil Action Committee, chaired by Charles Parker, will again be seeking federal funding for fighting the boll weevil in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, he noted. “In addition, the committee is recommending the creation of a National Boll Weevil Protection Fund with supplemental support from boll weevil foundations across the Cotton Belt to continue eradication efforts along the border and prevent re-infestation of eradicated zones.”

The Council will also be focused on its efforts to deal with international contract defaults and the Peruvian countervailing duty case. “The Council devoted significant resources to both of these issues in 2012 and will again this year,” Dodson noted. “Of course, the Council also will be monitoring efforts to revive WTO Doha negotiations and possible proposals for U.S. cotton policy modifications as an “early harvest.”