AJ NewsLink: Cotton experts gird for sweeping federal budget cuts
In light of historically high cotton prices, impending federal budget cuts and early 2012 Farm Bill discussions, Texas Tech cotton researchers hoped to spark a dialogue with industry leaders, producers and policymakers on how to navigate through these uncertain times.
On Tuesday (March 29), about 70 people with ties to the cotton industry discussed those pressing issues at the 11th annual Cotton Economics Research Institute and International Cotton Research Center Research and Outreach Symposium.
Sukant Misra, a co-director for ICRC, said the event grew from a meeting between Tech scientists and the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension as an opportunity for researchers to share their findings and obtain feedback from the industry.
What funding cuts to expect and what will the farm safety net be are the primary questions, but right now, it is too early to produce an answer, said U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and the event’s guest speaker. “In my view, it’s a real tipping point for America,” said Conaway, a House Agriculture Committee member. “We have some hard choices ahead of us.”
But, others said, this is a similar situation the industry weathered in years past and, if they hold a strong united front, this will be a hurdle the industry can overcome again. Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers, called for flexibility and a proactive stance in dealing with future farm policy decisions, as well as the exchange of information to lawmakers.
Even though prices are above $1.50 a pound, he said, lawmakers need to understand the necessity of a risk management system that adequately supports farmers and how much of a benefit agriculture is to the economy. “Agriculture is not adding to the deficit. … We need to remind Congress that we’re doing our part,” Verett said.
On the research end, ICRC went from about $2.5 million in funding to none in the 2007-2008 year and had to make adjustments to maintain its level of research, said Norman Hopper, the center’s co-director. The center received $1.6 million for 18 projects in 2011.
Misra said cotton research will continue because it provides valuable information and adds to the success of the local, state and national economies. If Congress bans earmarks, which provide ICRC’s funding, researchers will have to pursue grants, and the center may reduce the number of projects to offset the loss of money.
The goals of having quality research that keeps the U.S. cotton industry competitive and providing new innovations to farmers to maintain profitability and sustainability, he said, will remain unchanged. During the symposium, Tech scientists presented eight current projects on crop production systems, irrigation, cotton varieties, cotton fiber, pest control, carbon management policies and disease management.
By Alyssa Dizon / Avalanche-Journal
CONTACT: Darren Hudson, director, Cotton Economics Research Institute, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-1921 ext. 272 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0330NM11 / Photo Credit: Norman Martin/ CASNR
Editor’s Note: For more information, click http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2011-03-30/symposium-encourages-discussion-budget-cuts-farm-policy