Opinion – Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black
Monday, January 25, 2016
Office of Communications, 404-656-3689
*Photo available upon request
Commissioner Black Urges USDA to Designate Cottonseed as “Other Oilseed"
“We are from the government, and we are here to help.” Most citizens consider such a phrase satire at best and a flagrant insult at worst. Yet, falling commodity prices have stimulated a warranted plea for help from Georgia cotton producers to our friends at the United States Department of Agriculture.
In this case, policies really are in place to help, if Secretary Tom Vilsack will make the right call. A solution lies in the flexibility of the 2014 Farm Bill. The solution is not one of the budget busting disaster bailouts of old. The solution lies in designating cottonseed as “other oilseed,” a decision clearly delegated by Congress to the Secretary in the 2014 law. This designation would afford cotton producers the opportunity for relief through the safety net policies available to corn, soybean and other program crops without exceeding existing aggregate budget limits.
The 2014 Farm Bill (and previous farm bills) includes statutory authority for USDA to designate “other oilseeds" for purposes of farm bill programs. The U.S. cotton industry and specifically cotton producers, are struggling with the effects of low prices for cotton, weak demand and growing competition from heavily-subsidized foreign producers. The infrastructure for the U.S. cotton industry (gins, warehouses, marketing co-ops, merchants, merchandisers and cottonseed crushers) will continue to shrink unless there is a stabilizing policy for cotton to help sustain the industry in periods of low prices such as currently exist today. This policy will be important to ensure continued crop diversity in many parts of the Cotton Belt and the continued economic activity in rural areas.
Farm families who rely on the production of our state's number one row crop are facing treacherous prospects for the 2016 crop year. Thousands of Georgians depend on cotton production and processing for a living. Federal policies are in place to help during challenging times like this. The budget is already in place. My hope is that Secretary Vilsack will move swiftly to exercise the authority he already has to assist. Help is needed now.
-- Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black
About the GDA The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) is the voice of the state’s agriculture community. The department's mission is to provide excellence in services and regulatory functions, to protect and promote agriculture and consumer interests, and to ensure an abundance of safe food and fiber for Georgia, America, and the world by using state-of-the-art technology and a professional workforce. For more information, visit www.agr.georgia.gov.