Secretary Vilsack Announces Special Cotton Assistance Program
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that he is using his administrative authority to implement a one-time initiative to provide $300 million to cotton farmers through a special assistance program to help them with ginning costs to help offset the tough economic conditions brought on by the substantial decrease in cotton prices over the past year. The secretary made it clear he is using authorities and resources that avoid the need for legislative changes to the Farm Bill or any other law. Information made available by USDA is attached and we expect more details on the procedures soon.
Commenting on the announcement, President Duvall expressed his appreciation for the secretary’s action to assist U.S. cotton farmers defray some of their ginning costs and provide some needed help during the tough economic conditions in the cotton sector. He also noted his appreciation for the teamwork among state Farm Bureaus, the National Cotton Council (NCC) and other farm and commodity groups to help secure this special program. His official statement can be found in the attachments.
The program will:
- Provide a one-time payment directly to producers;
- Program sign-up is expected to start June 20 and run through August 5. The Department expects payments to begin in late July;
- The payments will be adjusted for regional differences based on a producer’s share of his/her 2015 cotton plantings; and
- USDA has allocated $300 million provided through the Commodity Credit Corporation to cover the costs of this special program.
As you will recall, earlier this year, AFBF worked with the NCC and other groups to seek USDA’s administrative approval to declare cottonseed an “other” oilseed in response to the substantial decrease in cotton prices and the indications from across the cotton region. One clear point we all agreed upon was that the secretary’s administrative action was critical as we did not want to reopen the new Farm Bill. In February, Sec. Tom Vilsack announced that legal restrictions prevented him from that option, but that he was looking at alternative approaches in the hopes of providing some help for cotton farmers.
President Duvall discussed the secretary’s determination on the oilseed question with the Board in March, which resulted in his and the Board’s further direction to staff to continue working with NCC and with USDA to explore alternative approaches. The program announced today is consistent with that direction and will provide some needed assistance to help alleviate the impact current cotton prices are having on producers.
Many details are provided in the attached FSA Fact Sheet. It is important to note USDA made it clear this special program is a one-time initiative that its payments to producers will reflect regional differences to address regional concerns raised during the program’s development, and will be based on a relatively short sign-up period that will begin June 20.
The sign up deadline is August 5, 2016 and department officials made it clear there will not be an extension for late signup. It is critical that state Farm Bureaus ensure this deadline is clear to our cotton farmer members – again, we have already been informed there will not be an extension of the signup period.
We will keep you posted on any additional information regarding the producer sign-up as it becomes available.
This is certainly welcome news, as reflected in President Duvall’s statement, and we appreciate all of the coordination and cooperation that has led to this announcement. It is important to note that we also appreciate the secretary finding a path to a solution that did not require legislative action that could have opened up the Farm Bill.
Again, we will keep you posted on details as they become available.