Local cotton producers disappointed with omnibus spending bill

Updated: May. 4, 2017 at 5:44 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Right now, cotton producers across the country and here in West Texas are wondering, what next?

This comes after the $1.1 trillion government funding bill, also known as the omnibus spending bill, was passed in the House, but without a package cotton farmers were hoping would be in it.

Local producers say they are frustrated with the outcome.

"Neither the Republicans or the Democrats in the Senate believed that it was important enough to fix cotton, or dairy either one. One by itself, or together. We both got left out of the package," Plains Cotton Growers Executive Vice President, Steve Verett, said.

Verett says the staff at PCG worked with the National Cotton Council and Representative Mike Conaway for the last 18 months to create what he called a critical package to bring cotton back as a covered commodity - a safety net those producers don't have right now in this already risky business.

"The cotton industry came up with a compromise that was completely paid for. It took away some benefits in the farm program that they currently have today that's not as effective and replaced it with Title 1 on cotton seed...cotton has not been a covered commodity in the 2014 Farm Bill. This would bring them back in as a covered commodity," Verett said.

Steve says the problem ultimately began when Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont wanted to add in a plan for dairy farmers. When that didn't work out, he says both groups were impacted.

"At the end of the day, Mr. Leahy was not willing to support the spending package with cotton being in there and dairy being left out," Verett said.

Dan Jackson, General Manager at Meadow Farmers Co-Op, says he shares the feeling of disappointment

"They just picked up their toys and went home, and left cotton producers again, swinging in the wind - and didn't do anything to help the dairy folks they were so adamant about helping, apparently," Jackson said.

He says this is a setback for about 70 cotton producers, just at that gin alone, and it comes right as they're gearing up to plant this years crop.

"It just adds to that uncertainty. It creates another problem for them as they go back to get their farm loans in the coming year. It's just help that we could have desperately, we desperately need," Jackson said.

Steve says the next step is for them to revisit with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, to try and find some short-term assistance for cotton farmers.

He says they won't give up that easily.

"We gotta pick up our crayons and all of our tools and go back to work and try to find any and every opportunity that we can to try to get it fixed," Verett said.

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