Secretary Tom Vilsack’s answer to the question was short and to the point.
After he was asked during a news briefing why he couldn’t designate cotton as an “other oilseed,” a request made by the cotton industry and a number of farm-state congressmen, he replied: “Because I can’t.”
But he went on to explain USDA does want to help cotton producers and two possible avenues for that. One would be to provide a Cotton-Transition-Assistance-Payment-type program, using Commodity Credit Corp. funding. The other would be a cost-share for cotton ginning through marketing assistance funding.
The latter is being explored through negotiations with the cotton industry aimed at determining the costs and the mechanics of how such a program would work. Vilsack has mentioned a figure of $300 million for the total cost of ginning while the cotton industry estimated the total could be closer to $800 million.
The questions and answers about potential assistance for cotton were one of a number Vilsack fielded during a press conference following his speech to Commodity Classic in New Orleans.
The secretary, who is in his last year in office given the Obama administration's exit next January, said future secretaries need the authority to create programs from the Commodity Credit Corp. Act, which Congress denied him after 2010, because "other commodities besides cotton could become stressed" in the current environment.
For more on Vilsack, visit www.usda.gov.