Washington, D.C. – Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) led a coalition of 109 rural and urban Democrats and Republicans from across the country in a letter calling on President Trump to use his authority to help stabilize the cotton industry by operating the Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program on an ongoing basis beginning with the 2016 crop year.
“We can’t continue ignoring the economic turmoil of U.S. cotton farmers. While countries like China and India are pouring billions of dollars into subsidies for fiber production each year, America’s cotton producers have been struggling to scrape by without a safety net to help them soldier through these tough times – the steepest slide in net-farm income since the Great Depression. Cotton producers can’t wait until the next farm bill – they need help now. I urge the president to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. cotton farmers to provide them with the assistance they so desperately need,” said Chairman Conaway.
Today’s letter was a joint effort with House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford (R-AR), Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Nolan (D-MN), House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Subcommittee Ranking Member Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and committee members Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) and Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ).
The letter is a continuation of the committee’s work to help provide relief to farmers struggling in cotton country. Chairman Conaway previously co-led a letter in December 2015 signed by 100 members of Congress to former U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack that ultimately resulted in the Cotton Ginning Cost Share program for the 2015 crop. It is necessary to continue the cost share program until Congress is able to find a long-term solution that ultimately results in cotton being included in the farm safety net.
Full text of the letter is available below.
July 18, 2017
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to call attention to the ongoing economic struggles of thousands of American cotton farming families across the country and their need for an effective safety net. Without some action by the Federal government, these families will continue to see their equity erode or take on a greater debt load as they hope to keep their family farms in operation.
In the past decade, American cotton farmers have had to endure sharply increasing foreign subsidies, tariffs, and non-tariff trade barriers along with multiple years of significant weather-related crop losses, all under a significantly weakened and uncertain U.S. safety net. In recent years, these factors have resulted in the United States experiencing a 30-year low in cotton planted area; global cotton prices approaching $2.00 per pound before plummeting to as low as 57 cents per pound; and record production costs far outpacing market returns for the last 3 years.
As a consequence, America’s cotton farming families are struggling to compete on a lopsided global playing field heavily weighted to our competitors in countries like China and India that benefit from sharply rising government subsidies.
In addition, the safety net for American cotton farmers is not on par with the safety net for other staple crop farmers, meaning cotton farmers are much more exposed to the predatory trade practices of foreign countries. This impact on our country’s cotton farmers is also severely impacting the U.S. cotton industry’s infrastructure that includes not only farms but also gins, warehouses, marketing cooperatives, merchants, cottonseed processors, merchandisers, and textile manufacturers across the 17-state Cotton Belt from Virginia to California. For example, over the past decade, the numbers of businesses involved in the ginning and warehousing of cotton have declined by 33 and 21 percent, respectively. It is imperative that we protect the remaining 20,000 businesses in this industry that employ 126,000 people and generate over $21 billion in revenue or America risks losing this important sector of our economy in the same way we lost much of our textile industry, once the largest part of the U.S. manufacturing sector.
Mr. President, in an effort to help stabilize the entire industry, we strongly urge you to use your authority to operate on an ongoing basis the Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program effective beginning with the 2016 crop year. The cost share program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, is desperately needed to provide policy stability in the absence of a comprehensive policy for cotton farmers in the existing farm bill to effectively respond to sustained and deep economic losses due to price and revenue declines. This cost share program was operated by the previous Administration for the 2015 crop year and is an effective and efficient means of providing economic relief to America’s cotton farming families.
Mr. President, we respectfully urge you to take this critical action and we stand ready to work with you, the Department of Agriculture, and the industry to address this important need as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your consideration and support.
cc: The Honorable Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture