National News

Bipartisan congressional group pushes cotton program continuation

Posted July 20

— President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue are getting mail from members of Congress, including most of Georgia's delegation, urging the administration to continue the cotton ginning cost share program on an ongoing basis to help stabilize the U.S. cotton industry.

Both of Georgia's U.S. senators were among the 25 signing the Senate letter, while U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, and Austin Scott, R-Tifton, were among the 109 U.S. representatives who signed a letter from the House.

Noting that cotton has a $3 billion-a-year impact on the Georgia economy and supports 53,000 jobs, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Marietta, said cotton-farming families already are struggling to keep their farms going in a market that he said has faced unfair competition because of foreign subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, and a weakened U.S. safety net.

"The cost share program is needed to provide policy stability in the absence of a comprehensive policy for cotton in the existing farm bill to respond to deep and sustained price and revenue declines," the bipartisan group of senators wrote in the letter. "Without some action by the federal government, these families will continue to see their equity erode or take on a greater debt load as they hope to keep their family farms in operation."

The senators noted that in the past decade, the number of businesses involved in ginning has dropped by a third and businesses that warehouse cotton have fallen 21 percent.

"It is imperative that we protect the remaining 20,000 businesses in this industry that employ 126,000 people and generate over $21 billion in revenue," they wrote.

Bishop, ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, said the program has proven to be an effective means of stabilizing cotton prices and providing relief to farmers, as well as manufacturers and consumers who rely on the fiber.

"The Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program has proven itself to be an effective tool to protect our cotton farms from economic devastation," Bishop said. "I urge the president to continue this program to ensure the availability of U.S. cotton for those manufacturers and consumers that rely on this vital agricultural product."

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