Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Crawford: Commodity in Focus: Stress in Cotton Country
Remarks as prepared:
As most of you are aware, we have a very serious situation unfolding in the cotton belt right now. The purpose of this hearing is to hear from the folks who are directly affected on the front lines.
I think it is important that we hear from the folks on this panel as they articulate how difficult the circumstances are right now and what may lie in store if mitigating action is not taken soon.
Whether you hail from cotton country or not, each Member of this Committee can relate to what is unfolding in the cotton belt by imagining that the exact same conditions were unfolding with respect to the major crop grown in your part of the country, the economic lifeblood of your communities.
In the not too distant past, we lost to China most of what was once the largest manufacturing sector in America, our textile industry. Now, I believe we are in grave danger of losing the vast majority of our production to China, India, and other countries that are employing anticompetitive trade practices that no American farmer can match.
Every farmer in America deals in varying degrees with high and rising foreign subsidies and tariffs. Every farmer in America is struggling with low prices and rising inputs. And, every farmer in America has at one time or another been dealt a blow by Mother Nature. Some farmers, including many in the cotton belt, have suffered blow after blow for several years in a row now.
But what distinguishes the cotton farmer right now from his brethren who grow other staple crops is the fact that the cotton farmer is trying to weather all of these things at once, most in their severest form, and without the benefit of an effective farm safety net.
I greatly appreciate the efforts of cotton farmers to put together a policy for cotton lint that would end the WTO litigation instigated by Brazil. Unfortunately, the current cotton policy that was put in place last year was entirely predicated on a functioning world cotton market. But, a functioning world market is hardly what we have going on today.
I will allow our witnesses to describe more fully what China, India, and other countries are doing and how these actions are destroying the cotton market and harming U.S. cotton farmers.
Today, I implore the Secretary to use the authorities that we have given him in the Farm Bill to provide critical and urgent relief by designating cottonseed as an oilseed for purposes of Price Loss Coverage and Agricultural Risk Coverage.
While I do not believe that this action is a cure for all that ails, it is still meaningful help that is within the Secretary’s power to provide.
I am very grateful to Secretary Vilsack for taking administrative actions in many instances in the past in order to head off a crisis in other parts of farm country. I believe that the Secretary cares about our nation’s farmers and ranchers. And, so I am very hopeful that he and his team will take action on this important matter.
I know that my friend, Mr. Walz, and Ranking Member Peterson, do not have a direct dog in this fight. After all, there is not a lot of cotton grown in Minnesota. But, I know Mr. Walz believes as I do that agriculture must hang together or hang separate.
So, Mr. Walz, please accept my sincerest gratitude for your friendship and your help.
I would now recognize my good friend, Mr. Walz, for his opening statement.