Developing a farm bill that is timely and that preserves a farm safety net in a time of deficit reduction are the foremost challenges for new National Cotton Council chairman Chuck Coley.
Coley, a cotton producer from Vienna, Ga., took office at the NCC annual meeting Feb. 12 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We also have the Brazil WTO case to deal with, and that will take up a lot of time” Coley says.
The cotton industry faces a multitude of other issues in the coming year, he adds. Those include the regulatory and legislative challenges that “come up on a daily basis.” But getting a timely farm bill and dealing with the Brazil case are the two most important items Coley expects to face during his tenure as NCC chairman.
Also on the list is trouble in merchandising, including “defaults around the world. That’s a major concern for the total industry,” Coley says. “But the industry is united as a whole and this is a good message to carry to Washington to let regulators know that all seven segments of the industry are united behind one purpose.”
He says trade will be a key for 2012. He believes recently passed trade agreements have the potential to help move cotton but he offers a note of caution.
“It’s critical to keep moving cotton through the export channels to maintain our share of the market. It’s also critical that we maintain the yarn forward rules of origin,” he says. “We have to make sure we have good rules of origin to be sure that these trade agreements do not jeopardize use or misuse (an agreement) so it doesn’t replace U.S. cotton in the marketplace.”
Coley says he would have “guessed a 5 percent” reduction in cotton acres for 2012. “But in the good talk Gary Adams made Saturday morning he came up with 7.5 percent. He’s probably right. Price determines what acreage will be more than anything.”
Coley was chairman of the Cotton Foundation in 2010-11 and served as that organization’s president in 2009-10. He also served as chairman of the American Cotton Producers in 2008-09and as a NCC director.
Coley has been active in national, regional and state associations. He is a current board member for Southern Cotton Growers Association. He served as the president of National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA) in 1995-96 and was president of Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association in 1991-92. He received the NCGA’s Horace Hayden National Cotton Ginner of the Year award in 1998.
Coley is the owner of CBC Farms and his principal crops are cotton and peanuts. He is the president of Coley Gin and Fertilizer Company, a diversified agribusiness in Vienna with services including chemical, seed and fertilizer sales; peanut handling and warehousing; and cotton ginning, warehousing and marketing. In addition, he serves as a Bank of Dooly director and is a member of Chickasha of Georgia’s executive committee.
John Maguire, National Cotton Council chief of Washington affairs, agrees with Coley that the industry faces unique challenges in 2012. He says cotton, along with other U.S. farm commodities, will face” quite a challenging and complicated year in Washington” fighting budget pressures and working through a farm bill debate.
Maguire, in a Farm Press interview at the recent NCC annual meeting, said the farm bill debate will “entail discussion of new policy and perhaps policy the cotton industry has never worked with before.” He says the cotton industry anticipates “more insurance-based and more shallow loss revenue approaches.
“At the end of the day the challenge will be to encourage Congress to act expeditiously because farmers really need to know what the rules are going to be so they can continue to make investments and make their cropping decisions.” Maguire says. “We will be working very hard for good policy but also timely policy.”
He says election years always present a “unique challenge,” for farm programs. “But this one may be more so than those in the past because many of the members of the House are running in districts that have been redrawn. In the redistricting process members may not be running in their old districts but may be running in districts where they have a totally new constituency. As we get closer to the summer, members are going to want to be back home and working with their new constituents.”
He says the pressure to meet those new constituents could result in a “rather short legislative session to try to accomplish things.”
Maguire said budget pressure remain a significant challenge to farm programs.