Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has the power under the current farm bill to designate cottonseed as an oilseed, which would give cotton farmers access to federal risk management options during cotton industry’s toughest economic times in decades.
Cotton farmers received backing for this action Dec. 15 when 100 members of congress sent Vilsack a letter formally urging him to use his legal authority to classify cottonseed as an “other oilseed.”
This would make cottonseed eligible for the Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs and provide a much-needed safety net for cottonseed and cotton farmers facing natural disasters and what is being called “predatory foreign competition” by China and India, which has left U.S. farmers financially struggling with few options.
The bipartisan letter followed testimony Dec. 9 by cotton industry leaders, beseeching congressional assistance to help the U.S. cotton industry.
During that Dec. 9 hearing National Cotton Council Vice Chairman Shane Stephens said during his testimony:
"With the lowest U.S. cotton acreage in more than 30 years, the smallest exports in 15 years, and cotton prices at their lowest level since the 2009 recession, economic pressure is mounting," Stephens said.
"Cotton demand, 10 percent below the peak observed in 2006, is struggling due to increased competition from synthetic fibers, and government support for international cotton production is increasing. To help address the current economic climate, the cotton industry is urging the designation of cottonseed as an 'other oilseed' for the purpose of participation in the farm safety net."
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