U.S. cotton growers plan to reduce plantings by 5 percent this spring because of lingering low prices caused by the pandemic, said the National Cotton Council on Thursday at its annual meeting.
Farm groups, from local cooperatives to large national organizations, traditionally hold their annual meetings during the winter, when field work is at a minimum and a meeting in town mixes business with a social get-together. Many of the national meetings will be held online this time due to the pandemic.
This year's U.S. cotton crop could be the second-largest since 2006, according to the National Cotton Council's respected survey of growers. Cotton Council economist Jody Campiche says growers intend to expand cotton plantings by nearly 4 percent, lured by strong cotton prices compared to likely returns from competing crops such as corn and soybeans.
The National Cotton Council, the umbrella group for growers, ginners, merchants and manufacturers, said the industry has set six goals for improving environmental stewardship by 2015, including a 39-percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. The council's chairman, grower Ronnie Lee of Georgia, says the industry "wants to be the supplier of choice for those who are committed to only buying cotton that is produced with sustainable and responsible environmental, safety and labor practices."
The House could vote on its version of the 2018 farm bill as early as this fall, said Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway at a farm bill "listening session" in his home state of Texas, the No. 1 cotton and cattle producer in the country. After an unsuccessful redesign of the cotton program in the 2014 law, cotton growers repeatedly said their crop must be eligible for the same subsidies as the other major U.S. crops, such as corn, soybeans and wheat.
At a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing early this month, the National Cotton Council, an industry trade group, said growers are “vulnerable to further instability” due to low cotton prices.
Rebuffed by the Obama administration, the cotton industry told a House Agriculture subcommittee that growers need a subsidy on cottonseed to offset low prices for cotton fiber. The novel proposal, with an estimated pricetag of $1 billion a year, is part of an industry push to make cotton eligible for the same subsidies offered to grain and soybean growers.
Cotton growers say they will expand plantings 9 percent this year, displacing corn and some wheat to chase the highest market price in four years, says the National Cotton Council. Nonetheless, "2017 is shaping up to be another challenging year," said NCC economist Jody Campiche, because of high production costs and the struggling global economy.
With a worldwide glut holding down cotton prices, the National Cotton Council, a U.S. trade group, called for an examination of domestic supports offered to growers in China, India and other developing countries as well as of the impact of synthetic fibers. Gary Adams, the Cotton Council's chief executive, said India, China and Pakistan are years behind in reporting the scope and type of subsidies offered to their growers.
The National Cotton Council said it will try to reverse Turkey's decision to assess anti-dumping duties on U.S. cotton, including steps such as a WTO complaint and a lawsuit.
While a $1 billion-a-year cottonseed subsidy may be off the table, financially strapped cotton growers could be helped through two other federal options. One could pump $150 million into the sector through a cost-share program with cotton ginners and the other would be revival of so-called cotton transition payments.
Cotton growers face the third year of low commodity prices, high production costs and financial hardship, says an economic outlook presented at the industry's annual meeting.
As directed by Congress, USDA is giving cotton growers the chance to use so-called commodity certificates to retire crop support loans, a step estimated to funnel an additional $40 million to farmers facing the lowest market prices since 2009.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack handed the question of a $1 billion a year cottonseed subsidy program back to Congress, telling lawmakers they hold the power to expand the farm program but USDA does not. In a novel proposal, the cotton industry asked that cottonseed be declared an oilseed and thus become eligible for the crop subsidies offered to grain and soybean growers.
The National Cotton Council board elected Gary Adams as the organization's president and chief executive, and Reece Langley as its vice present for Washington operations.
U.S. growers will curtail cotton plantings due to the lowest prospective prices in six years with the harvest to contract by 13 percent from its 2014 total, according to a survey of growers by the National Cotton Council. The survey, completed in mid-January, pointed to a crop of 14 million bales vs 16.08 million bales last year. That would make it the third-smallest in a decade. Plantings would total 9.4 million acres, down 15 percent.
Brazil agreed to end a decade-old World Trade Organization case against U.S. cotton subsidies and to a peace clause for the life of the 2014 farm law in exchange for $300 million and technical assistance for its cotton sector.