New Farm Bill - What it Could Mean for West Texas Cotton

Published 01/27 2014 10:25PM

Updated 01/27 2014 10:52PM

by Victoria Price

LUBBOCK, TX -- After years of back and forth, House and Senate negotiators have finally agreed on a new Farm Bill. If passed, the new $1 trillion bill will eliminate dozens of subsidies, and expand crop insurance to change the way farmers...including local cotton farmers...receive money from the government.

Some of the provisions in the new bill may not be ideal, but Steve Verett of the plains cotton growers says right now, this new bill is the best they could expect.

"We're just pleased it looks like there's going to be a completion to this," he says. "Certainly it's not as good as what we've had, but it's the best that we can hope for, with the budget restraints."

The bipartisan agreement, two years after lawmakers began work on it, will reduce government spending by about $23 billion over the next decade.

"Agriculture's been proud that they've been one of the few areas of government that put on the table a program that reduces spending," Verett says. "We're doing our part to help reduce the national debt."

Under this new bill, dozens of agriculture subsidies will be consolidated or even eliminated. For cotton, that means switching from the former fixed "direct payment" program to a new crop insurance system, that will only kick in to provide aid if and when prices drop below a certain point.

"So that, farmers won't be planting based on what they might expect they can receive from the government support," Verett explains. "The only way that farmers will be paid now is that if revenue county-wide, or a price, goes below a certain point."

Congressman Randy Neugebauer put out a statement today, saying "The farm bill will reduce our deficit by 24 billion dollars over ten years," and "This is a good bill that saves taxpayer dollars through free market reforms."

But it's not just ag subsidies getting the ax in this new bill. The only way negotiators were able to get this bill through committee was to cut about $9 billion from the food stamp program.

However, David Weaver with the South Plains Food Bank says the impact on the local hunger could have been more severe.

"The good news for our area is that the SNAP cuts are not impacting our area as significantly as they could have."

The House is expected to vote on the new measure this Wednesday. It's unclear when it'll be put to a vote in the Senate.

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