House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway says Congress gave the secretary of agriculture specific authority to designate any oilseed – including cottonseed – as “an other oilseed” for farm program purposes.

The Texas Republican cited the farm bill language in a five-page letter responding to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s letter outlining his conclusion he lacks legal authority to designate cottonseed an other oilseed for Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage.

“Although your letter identifies several possible obstacles to the designation of cottonseed as an oilseed, I respectfully disagree with your conclusion,” said Conaway, whose district includes a portion of the High Plains. “I assure you that your authority to designate cottonseed as an other oilseed stands on firm legal ground.”

Cotton industry leaders have been seeking such a designation since a grower in the Southeast originated the idea of making cottonseed an other oilseed so cotton producers could be eligible for oilseed payments that might be triggered by prices falling below the reference price for soybeans and other oilseeds.

Each of the last several farm bills have contained the language that defines an oilseed as “a crop of sunflower seed, rapeseed, canola, safflower, flaxseed, mustard seed, crambe, sesame seed or any other oilseed designated by the secretary.”