It took more than two years and plenty of discussion, but with the passage of the new farm bill in February, farmers' decisions are just beginning.
With planting season on the horizon across Kansas, such decisions could be complicated as producers try to decipher what the new farm bill entails. A series of meetings today and Friday are geared to help Kansas cotton farmers and others learn more about the trillion-dollar legislation, said Gary Feist, general manager of the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers gins in Wellington and Anthony.
"This will be a good meeting no matter the crop," Feist said of the meetings today and Friday at Hugoton and Wellington, respectively.
Cotton Nelson, communications director for the National Cotton Council, said the organization is having nearly 50 meetings across the Cotton Belt to educate producers about the farm bill.
Kansas is one of those states and, while small, has increased its presence as a cotton producer, Nelson said.
Cotton acreage harvested in Kansas totaled roughly 26,000 acres in 2013 down 50 percent from 2012. However, it is comparable to 38,000 planted acres in 2009.
Feist, however, sees promise for cotton in future years, a crop he has promoted for nearly two decades. The corn market, at present, is a long way from the $7 price range it was at when farmers were making planting decisions last year. Moreover, despite low acreage and 2, 4-D drift issues in southwest Kansas, weather conditions in south-central Kansas helped produce a high-yielding crop on what acreage is in production. The crop also is touted for its less water usage than corn.
Understanding how cotton and other crops work in the new farm bill will help. Mark Lange, president and chief executive officer for the cotton council, said the new farm bill includes fundamental changes to cotton's safety net and a greater reliance on crop insurance.
According to the council, the five-year farm bill includes provisions important to the U.S. cotton industry's viability. That includes authorization of a new crop insurance product tailored to cotton production and the inclusion of a transition program for the 2014 crop year as enactment comes too late for USDA and the private sector to offer the new insurance product until 2015.
Those farm bill provisions are an important step in achieving a final resolution of the long-standing Brazil World Trade Organization case, the council stated.
Last month, Brazil officials said they were planning to ask the World Trade Organization to determine if the new U.S. farm bill adequately addresses the country's concerns about cotton subsidies. "These are important meetings for cotton farmers," Nelson said. "It's a little more complex, but I think it is a great opportunity to hear firsthand" about the farm bill.