Woody Anderson says the National Cotton Council intends to try to make sure Congress honors its “Contract with Agriculture” when it considers the fiscal 2005 budget later this year.
“Most farmers think that Congress made a commitment to them in the 2002 farm bill,” said Anderson, a farmer from Colorado City, Texas, and the new chairman of the Cotton Council. “We will work with our friends in Congress to make sure Congress honors that commitment.
Making a play on words with the Republican Party's Contract with America in 1994, Anderson said the Council is hopeful congressional leaders will have a similar follow-through in its “Contract with Agriculture.”
“In 2003, the Council worked very hard to address the ongoing priorities of defending the U.S. cotton program and attaining sound trade policy,” said Anderson in comments to farmers attending the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis, Tenn.
“The U.S. cotton program faced continuous attack from our foreign competitors, from some members of Congress, and from many in the media. Many of us shared the same sense of frustration as one media outlet after another unjustly blamed our cotton program for driving down world prices and for the plight of poor African farmers.
“Incredibly, many of these same voices alleged that farm programs foster terrorism and even contribute toward obesity.
In Congress, the Council defended the farm bill throughout the budget debate and the appropriations process. “We joined others who shared our views in testimony before the Payment Limit Commission about the tremendous damage that will accompany any additional program benefit restrictions.”
As the cotton industry develops strategy for 2004 and beyond, defense of the U.S. farm program and influencing the outcome of trade negotiations will continue to be at the top of the Council's priority list, said Anderson.
“This year's budget and appropriations measures will be crafted in a partisan environment, and election year politics will dominate debate on every issue considered by Congress,” he said.
“The cotton industry is very fortunate to have members of Congress who understand our industry and are willing to address key issues. But we must also be prepared to change with several pending retirements in the Senate and re-districting issues in the House.
Anderson said growing budget deficits will generate pressure for change in 2004. “When Congress begins debating the new budget, there will be proposals to save money by modifying programs or reducing benefits. Others in Congress will work to cut funds from production agriculture in favor of more politically attractive programs.”
The Council will continue to work with all agriculture and allied organizations to effectively defend commodity programs and other key provisions of the farm law, he noted, and will help build and maintain coalitions that remind Congress that the current farm law is balanced in its approach to funding for production, conservation and nutrition programs.
“Our trade agenda this year stands virtually shoulder-to-shoulder with farm policy in determining the ultimate success of the cotton industry,” Anderson said. “In response to our government's recent efforts to jumpstart WTO talks, the Council will continue discussions with USTR to ensure that negotiations concerning the U.S. cotton program will be conducted in the context of the overall agricultural negotiations and not singled out from the discussions on other commodities.”
The Council has continually stated that a good Central America Free Trade Agreement is essential to preserving a viable U.S. cotton and textile industry, according to Anderson.
“A good CAFTA assures that the benefits accrue to the signatory countries and denies unnecessary benefits to non-signatory countries,” he noted. “The Council's board adopted a resolution stating that the Council opposes the CAFTA in its current form and urges Congress to defer consideration of CAFTA until such time as the textile provisions are thoroughly reviewed and significantly improved.