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Arizona farmers eye cotton program changes aware of its impact

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-01-30 14:30:00 – WASHINGTON

Modification in the cotton program might affect Arizona growers, but the farmers are still keeping an eye on the farm bill as it is moving toward approval in Congress after two years of debate.

The bill allocates nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years, largely for food stamp programs, but also includes funds for agricultural research and development, pest and disease prevention, and other programs in addition to the cotton change.

The House approved the farm bill on a 251-166 vote on Wednesday, sending the bill to the Senate. The White House says President Barack Obama will sign the bill if it reaches his desk

Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers said that he was very pleased with the bill’s progress. The previous law expired in the fall.

As a farmer who grows alfalfa, wheat and cotton in Maricopa County, Rogers said that having a safety net for agriculture is important. However, the cotton farmers in Arizona may not benefit from an insurance program the same way that those in Southern states, such as Georgia, might

Roger said that out West, they don’t have major disasters like floods that can wipe out crops. As those details (about the insurance program) come out, they will know soon how it will affect them

While the Arizona Cotton Growers Association also supports the farm bill, Executive Director Rick Lavis said that its effect on Arizona cotton growers remains to be seen, as cotton shifts from direct-payment subsidies to a commodity insurance program.

Dennis Nuxoll, vice president of federal government affairs for the Western Growers Association, said that the association enthusiastically supports the farm bill, which allocates federal funds toward programs that are important for fruit and vegetable growers in Arizona and elsewhere.

There are two critical areas of fruit and vegetable funding: pest and disease prevention, and research and development. However, the federal resources will help make the industry more efficient and will let it continue to improve food safety and marketing

The other important parts of the bill include trade programs that promote U.S. products overseas, nutrition programs that can educate young people on healthy eating habits, and provisions that help growers comply with state and federal regulations. In Arizona, for example, it could allow growers to invest in better irrigation systems and air-quality control.

Steven Reiley, vice president of Farm Credit Services Southwest, an agriculture financer based in Tempe, said the loan season’s just begun and the lack of secured government payments could eventually affect some farmers’ ability to secure loans.

Since the recession, state budgets all across the country have been limited, that makes it even more critical that these federal funds are available.

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