NEW ORLEANS, LA – National Cotton Council Chairman Bobby Greene said defense of the U.S. farm program and influencing trade negotiations will continue as NCC priorities in 2004.
In an address at the NCC’s annual meeting here today, he told delegates, “The NCC will continue to work with all agriculture and allied organizations to effectively defend commodity programs and other key farm law provisions. We will build and maintain coalitions that remind Congress the current farm law is balanced in its approach to production, conservation and nutrition program funding.”
He noted that growing budget deficits will generate pressure for change in 2004, including proposals to save money by modifying programs or reducing benefits.
“Others in Congress will work to cut funds from production agriculture in favor of conservation, nutrition or other more politically attractive programs,” the Courtland, AL, ginner said. “The cotton industry is very fortunate to have members of Congress who understand our industry and are willing to address key issues. But we must be prepared to adapt to change with several pending retirements in the Senate and re-districting issues in the House.”
Greene, who will chair the NCC’s Executive Committee in 2004, reminded delegates that the NCC’s trade agenda stands virtually shoulder-to-shoulder with farm policy in determining U.S. cotton’s ultimate success.
Among NCC actions this coming year in the trade arena are:
· continuing discussions with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office (USTR) to ensure that World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations regarding the U.S. cotton program will be conducted in the context of the overall agricultural negotiations, while reiterating concerns about the elimination of U.S. textile tariffs;
· carrying out a newly-approved NCC resolution that urges Congress to defer consideration of a Central American Free Trade Agreement until such time as the textile provisions are thoroughly reviewed and significantly improved;
· working to ensure that the extraordinary damage caused by market disruptions generated by China is addressed by the administration and Congress;
· studying each new bilateral trade initiative proposal carefully to ensure it will benefit the U.S. cotton industry and not non-signatory third countries; and
· consulting further with USDA and the USTR to ensure that every effort is made to successfully defend the U.S. cotton program against Brazil’s WTO challenge.
Among other challenges the NCC will focus on in 2004 are: 1) helping to defend legal challenges to the Cotton Research and Promotion Program, 2) providing solid support and leadership to Cotton Council International (CCI) - given that 65 percent or more of U.S. cotton fiber and more than four million bale equivalents of additional cotton yarn and fabric are now moving through export channels, 3) strengthening industry partnerships including alliances with The Cotton Foundation’s agribusiness members who help underwrite many NCC initiatives and 4) increasing industry leaders’ commitment to the Committee for the Advancement of Cotton (CAC).
Greene told delegates, “Today’s political environment demands that we keep CAC funded to ensure access for cotton’s voice. Along with our CAC support, I encourage each of you to be politically active and know your Senators and Representatives and their aides. Our very livelihood depends on it.”
Prior to outlining upcoming challenges, Greene reviewed key NCC action in 2003. Among those were: 1) defending the farm bill throughout the budget debate and appropriations process and from foreign competitors through WTO challenges, 2) garnering strong industry wide support for three trade-related China initiatives and 3) obtaining strong financial backing for CCI and The Cotton Foundation.
As the unifying force of the U.S. cotton industry, the Memphis-based National Cotton Council brings together industry representatives from the 17 cotton-producing states to establish policies reflecting the common interests and promoting mutual benefits for its broad membership and ancillary industries. The U.S. cotton industry provides employment for more than 400,000 Americans and generates more than $120 billion in annual economic activity.The NCC’s mission is ensuring the ability of all industry segments to compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.