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Cochran gives thumbs up to legislation that could boost cotton

photo courtesy Telesouth Communications, Inc.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a FY2018 agriculture funding measure that includes provisions added by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) to assist cotton producers struggling with stagnant market prices.

In addition to the cotton provisions, the FY2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill also includes funding and support for programs important to production, research, conservation and aquaculture in Mississippi.  The bill, approved unanimously on Thursday, also includes continued funding to advance efforts to provide adequate flood protection in the Carter and Rocky Bayou areas of Yazoo County.

““Cotton producers have faced economic hardship for three consecutive years.  The provisions in this bill are intended to help our producers even the odds, and to illustrate that Congress is willing to act based on industry needs when they are necessary and justified,” said Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “This effort to provide short-term relief until the next farm bill is enacted is a step in the right direction. The overall bill for Mississippi is solid.  It funds important programs that directly influence agriculture, public health, and the overall quality of life in our state,” he said.

The cotton provisions seek to address the ongoing economic challenges facing U.S. cotton producers by designating cottonseed as a covered commodity under Title I of the 2014 Farm Bill.  This would allow cotton producers to participate in the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program just like all other producers of U.S. commodities.  Eligibility would begin in the 2018 crop year.

Cochran express appreciation for Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and others, who have been working toward relief for distressed cotton producers.

“I look forward to working with them and others on a long-term solution moving forward,” Cochran said.

Residents, employers, and catfish processing facilities in the Carter-Rocky Bayou area would benefit from funding provided for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to carry out important flood prevention operations.  The bill includes language to ensure to ensure that adequate funding would go toward continued Carter-Rocky Bayou flood control work—a project authorized in 1941 but never completed.

The bill differs from the administration’s request and does not shutter some Agriculture Research Service laboratories or eliminate research project funding, including the ARS Cotton Ginning Research unit at Stoneville.  Instead, the bill would continue to fund ongoing research conducted at Stoneville, Mississippi State University, and the University of Mississippi.

Overall, the committee-passed bill would support federal agriculture, rural development, conservation programs, food safety, and nutrition assistance for children, families and seniors.  It is now available for consideration by the full Senate.


Some other items of interest to Mississippi in the FY2018 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill include:


Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) – $5.5 million increase for FSIS for full implementation of the USDA catfish inspection program.  It also includes language directing FSIS to complete foreign country equivalency determinations of countries wishing to continue exporting catfish to the United States within 180 days after the date of final implementation (September 1, 2017), with priority given to countries with the highest export volume.


Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) – Within APHIS funding, $30 million, a $5.0 million increase, for feral hog management; $2.0 million to maintain the National Training Academy at Mississippi State University; and a $1.6 million increase to the budget to combat wildlife depredation to domestic catfish operations and related production aquaculture.


Farm Service Agency (FSA) – Within FSA funding, $1.0 million for a pilot program to provide management and analysis of mature bottomland hardwood tree acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); and $6.5 million for the Grassroots Source Water Protection Program to assist rural water associations with groundwater protection.  The bill also includes:

  • Language directing FSA to update CRP guidelines to allow to allow current and future participants enrolled under floodplain and non-floodplain wetland restoration practices to plant up to 10 percent of enrolled land in agricultural commodity crops as wildlife food plots to enhance waterfowl food and habitat.
  • Language to prevent the closure of FSA county offices.


Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

  • $2.55 billion to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  Formula research funding for land-grant universities is maintained at FY2017 enacted levels.  Important to ongoing research work in Stoneville, Oxford and Starkville, the bill includes language rejecting the President’s budget request regarding the termination of research programs, redirection of research programs, or closure of research locations.

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