Cotton farmers will certainly be the big losers, but rural communities will also be hurt by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's statement he doesn't have the legal authority to designate cottonseed as an "other oilseed" for farm program purposes.
That's the take from Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, following Crawford's speech at the Arkansas Rice 2016 Annual Meeting at Arkansas State University.
"I think this is the only thing that is going to keep cotton in any kind of liquid shape at all," Crawford said in an interview. "It is not going to be a silver bullet by any stretch, but it will help. Look, cottonseed is an oilseed. We know that -- a premium oil -- and it should be given that consideration. There are some political concerns here that may be overshadowing this, but I'm hoping the secretary will reconsider."
If not, cotton could see further declines in Arkansas and in the rest of the Cotton Belt, although the National Cotton Council's Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey indicated a 6.2 percent increase nationwide and a 25 percent hike in the Mid-South.
"Cotton did not fare well in 2015, and I don't see anything on the horizon from the market perspective that indicates we are going to be out of this shape under this farm bill. We've got to do something to provide some relief, and, at this point, I think this is the best option."
Crawford said he didn't believe any consideration to the impact on the local economies from the decision not to declare cottonseed an other oilseed.
"Gins aren't ginning, guys are working, trucks aren't running -- that has an impact on a small rural economy," said Crawford. "And you extrapolate that over a 20-million-acre Cotton Belt and certainly it's going to have negative effects." (Crawford was referring to the cotton base acres left over from previous farm bills.)
For more information on the cotton industry's cottonseed as an other oilseed proposal, visit www.cotton.org.