Leaders seek talks on Sumner issue

Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, recently presented testimony before a WTP settlement dispute panel in Geneva “siding” with the Brazilian government’s arguments against U.S. farm policy relating to the cotton program supports.

This infuriated the National Cotton Council and sent a group of California agricultural leaders to Sumner’s office in protest. It included:

Earl Williams, president/CEO of the California Cotton Growers Associations; Tom Smith, chairman of AMCOT and former president of Calcot; Jarrell Neeper, Calcot economist; Craig Pedersen, chairman of California Cotton Growers Association; Fresno County grower Don Cameron, vice chairman of California Cotton Growers and president of the California Tomato Growers Association; Buttonwillow, Calif., producer Mike Frey, chairman of California Wheat Commission; Ernie Schroeder Jr., president of Jess Smith & Sons, Bakersfield; Mark Dutra of Fresno, president of the Western Cotton Shippers Association; Don Brasford, Chairman of California Rice Commission and Charlie Hoppin, chairman of the California Rice Industry Association.

Sumner defends his testimony on behalf of the Brazilians as an unbiased economic analysis of the U.S. cotton program as the work of an independent consultant.

Williams called Sumner’s action a “serious breach of trust and confidence by a respected UC Davis economist and heretofore thought to be friend of California’s agriculture.”

According to the Williams, a loss in this Brazil-U.S. dispute “could not only have a devastating affect on the U.S. cotton industry, but all U.S. farm programs as well, including rice, wheat and others that directly relate to California’s economy.”

‘Not heard last’

“If this was governmental or military related, it might be called treason and court martial proceedings would be in order” said Williams, “I don’t know what can be done about it, but as I told Dr. Sumner at the end of our meeting, we will not sit on our hands on this, and he has not heard the last from our industry on this issue.”

Williams is encouraging farmers and others to write letters of concern to UC officials about Sumner’s testimony.

“Furthermore, I would hope that anyone that supports the UC system financially would step back and question continued support until this issue is resolved,” said Williams. “It makes no sense to continue support of an institution that harbors ones who intentionally or unintentionally harm us and threaten the very survival of our industry. It’s time to stand up! It’s time to draw the line! It’s time to take action!”

Just weeks before Sumner’s appearance in Geneva, he appeared before the USDA Payment Limitations Commission in Washington D.C., and offered testimony that supported not lowering payment limit levels in the current farm bill. Just a few months before his appearance in Geneva, he was a member of the USDA Advisory Committee on U.S. Trade Policy with confidential clearances. In 1990, he was an adviser to USDA on farm policy and is a previous undersecretary of USDA for economics.

NC State economist

Sumner is also a former ag economist at North Carolina State University. While there, he promoted a similar argument against the federal tobacco program. His position was quickly adopted by anti-tobacco factions who used it to attack tobacco production in the U.S. as well as the tobacco program.

Sumner contended that U.S. farmers would be better off without a program. He also contended that tobacco growers could profitably switch to alternative crops. This is a view he has expressed about cotton producers.

Fellow academics and tobacco industry analysts refuted Sumner’s position. Sumner eventually took a job at USDA and left North Carolina. Since then, tobacco quotas have been slashed in half. Countless tobacco growers have gone bankrupt. Meanwhile, world tobacco production and consumption has continued to increase. Brazil, Argentina and other countries have profited while U.S. growers have been forced out of business

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