Protecting the farm and the farmer

January 17, 2017


It was a group of concerned and informed young farmers who met with the president of the National Cotton Council, Dr. Gary Adams on Tuesday afternoon, to address key issues at the heart of what can only be called a crisis point in agriculture.

The West Texas Young Farmers Association and the Terry County Farm Bureau Board had Dr. Adams as their invited guest. Along with Dr. Adams, Rick King and Susan Everett from the NCC also attended the meeting.

Representing the WTYFA and the Farm Bureau were Barrett Brown, Stetson Hogue, John Williams, Tanner Hogue, Monty Henson, Walt King, Rhett Green, Mason Becker and Kyle Kelly.

The National Cotton Council is basically a lobbying organization for the advancement of the cotton farmer. The NCC represents the seven segments in the cotton industry:

Producers, Ginners, Seed, Warehouses, Marketing, Merchants and Textiles.

Dr. Adams began the session by stating, “It is good to see young farmers coming along in the industry. The average age of the American farmer is rising and it is good to see you young guys and the interest you have in advancing and protecting our industry. It is getting tougher and tougher in this political climate.”

Mason stated, “We want to get more involved. We want to change the public perception of what an American farmer does. What we want to know from you is, as younger producers, how can we be effective in getting our voices heard?”

Dr. Adams told the group that staying involved in farm organizations such as WTYFA and the NCC were great places to start. He stated that three is a 75% participation rate among the cotton industry in the NCC. “All segments pay in and this keep us on the lobbying front. There are 350 delegates from the different sectors. When we go to Washington, we come in in a position that the Washington folks know represents all segments of the industry.”

Dr. Adams urged the group to stay involved in the regulatory issues such as chemical re-registration and the “Waters of the US Act” (WOTUS).

Rhett stated, “As farmers in West Texas, we are between a rock and a hard spot. We don’t have a lot of choices as far as what we can grow. In these economic times, I need to know that my money is being well spent. Are you seeing efficiency in the PACS in Washington? Is our money working for us?”

Dr. Adams responded, “We do feel like it is working. It is an uphill battle in these financially difficult times. We are battling so many things. This last administration has been tough on us. We have to know who our real friends in Washington are.”

He stated that it is sometimes just as important to begin with educating the staff in Washington and this knowledge works its way up. “These young staffers in Washington are getting further and further removed from the farm. The other side is constantly putting out misinformation. Fake news. Complete misrepresentation of ag economics. We have to fight this.”

He pointed out that many times the “facts” that the opposition presents includes inflated numbers and older data. “When we were working hard to secure and improve the safety net, we didn’t have to inflate the data. The truth spoke.”

Dr. Adams spoke about the declining net farm income and how it effects more than just farm economy. When the farm is losing money, all local businesses lose money.

Mason stated, “We are looking at losing a generation of farmers with the way the ag economy is going. You don’t just step into farming. You have to have help getting started. If we lose this generation, everyone is going to feel it. We have to protect our farm economy. How do you think we can do this?”

Dr. Adams responded, “I think we really need to focus on the special challenges facing the young farmer. Equity in land and equipment is a problem. We have to be aware of these challenges. Again, you just have to stay involved. Stay in contact with your representatives. Get your voice out there.”

He again spoke of the lack of understanding of farm economics by the general population. “They hear that there is a $40,000 limit (gin cost share limits) and they think, ‘That’s a lot of money. What are they complaining about?’ You have to give them perspective. $40,000 is a payment on equipment. You have to let them know what your expenses are and get them to understand the need for help.”

Monty stated, “We have to be more active. We have to play hard ball. What do we need to do?”

Dr. Adams responded, “We have to push back against the misinformation and get the positives out there. Let the people know how regulated we are on the farm these days as far as chemical use and being stewards of the water. With regulations like we have, we have no choice but be responsible and not what they make farmers out to be.”

He also talked about how cotton got so much support from other commodities and organization during the push for cotton seed oil  designation. He stated that other commodity growers and businesses know that what effects the cotton farmer could effect them at some point.

He stated that right now, the big concern was the synthetic fiber market. “I worry more about the synthetic market than I do the warehoused bales of cotton in China. The synthetic market is 2.5 times what the cotton market is. But. researchers have found that this synthetic stuff doesn’t break down. It is a pollutant to our waters. This is an area we need to push to get information out there.”

Walt asked, “What do you think we will see with the WTO (World Trade Organization) and Trump in the coming days?”

Dr. Adams responded, “It is going to be interesting. It is not going to be politics as usual. I think we all see that. I can see President Trump as being less inclined to care about what other countries think and more inclined to think about our own country’s needs.”

He also stated he feels we need the WTO, flawed as it is. “It is the only regulatory power we have, even if it doesn’t always work. Without the WTO, there is going to be no way to see any type of fair trade out there with other countries.”

In closing, Dr. Adams again expressed his appreciation to the group. “It is encouraging to see a room full of young farmers who love what they do and are willing to do whatever it takes to protect the land and the farm.”

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