U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran praise a USDA decision to help struggling cotton farmers.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to take administrative action will help producers say the senators.
The senators released a joint statement explaining details of the one-time assistance. The plan is to help farmers until a new federal farm bill can be crafted.
Perdue has taken action to make cotton producers eligible for a one-time assistance payment based on 2016 cotton acreage through the Cotton Ginning Cost Share (CGCS) program. The payments are intended to help offset high input and infrastructure costs, which have worsened economic hardships for cotton producers.
“This action creates a short-term safety net for cotton producers, who are enduring a number of prolonged economic challenges. I hope producers in Mississippi will assess their options and take advantage of this program,” said Cochran, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I commend Secretary Perdue and the President for taking steps to support cotton farmers. This action will help bridge the gap until the cotton provision in the 2018 budget agreement takes effect and while Congress works on new farm bill policies.”
“Mississippi’s cotton producers have been hit hard by recent market uncertainty,” Wicker said. “Competition from heavily subsidized foreign producers has intensified, causing wild swings in cotton prices. This program will provide much-needed temporary relief for domestic producers. I thank President Trump and Secretary Perdue for their support of American agriculture and their work to ensure fair deals for our domestic job creators and producers.”
Mississippi cotton producers, as part of the seven-state Mid-South Region, would be eligible to receive $30.39 per acre of cotton in 2016. The state reported 435,000 acres in cotton in that year. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers CGCS, bases the payment rate on a producer’s reported 2016 cotton acres, multiplied by 20 percent of the average ginning cost in the region. Payments will be capped at $40,000.
The FSA has established a March 12 to May 11, 2018, sign-up period.
Perdue’s announcement follows several actions taken by Senators to encourage the Trump administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide CGCS assistance. Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, included language in an FY2017 omnibus spending bill directing the Agriculture Secretary to assess administrative options to alleviate “three years of market returns well below the cost of production without a viable safety net for producers under the current Farm Bill.”
Cochran and Wicker were also among a bipartisan group of 26 Senators who wrote President Trump in July 2017 to request that the administration use the CGCS to strongly support the CGCS “to provide stability in the absence of a comprehensive policy for cotton in the existing farm bill to respond to deep and sustained price and revenue declines.”
In related action, Cochran secured language in recent resolution that makes cotton eligible for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program beginning with the 2018 crop year. PLC payments would help cotton farmers withstand low market prices and other economic challenges. The legislation, enacted in early February, offsets the cost of the cotton provisions with changes to other farm bill programs.