The National Cotton Council (NCC) is gearing up to defend the farm program again.

Although the NCC was able to defend the farm program spending against many challenges in 2003, this year's election-year politics will be a formidable minefield.

“The White House has already announced intentions to propose spending reductions as part of the president's FY 2005 budget proposal,” says John Maguire, NCC's senior vice president for Washington Operations. “Even though spending on agriculture accounts for less than 1% of total federal spending, farm programs will likely be included in the proposed budget cuts.”

Maguire told cotton producers at the Beltwide Cotton Conference in San Antonio that they can expect more proposals to “save money” by modifying farm programs or by the now annual proposal to reduce payment limits when Congress begins debating the new budget proposal.

“Some members continue to believe commodity programs ought to be strictly limited because they mistakenly believe that a single policy fits all commodities and farming operations,” says Maguire “Others want to cut funds from production agriculture and move them to conservation, nutrition or other more politically attractive programs.”

He says stronger commodity prices should significantly reduce farm program expenditures in 2004, but — rather than getting credit for those — farmers are likely to see more pressure for change because of the growing federal budget deficit.

Last year, more than 80 organizations, including farm, conservation and nutrition groups, joined together to urge Congress to keep the current law — as written in the 2002 farm bill — during the FY 2004 budget debate.

“These groups told Congress that the new farm law is balanced in its approach to production, conservation and nutrition program funding and that groups should be encouraged to work together and not be pitted against one another.”

The NCC encourages producers to be politically active, knowing how and when to contact your congressmen and express your views.