USDA Secretary, Washington leaders in Lamesa discussing Farm Bil

USDA Secretary, Washington leaders in Lamesa discussing Farm Bill

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Rolling out the red carpet for some A-listers from Washington D.C. President Trump's Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, House Chairman of the Agriculture Committee and Midland Congressman Mike Conaway, and Senator Ted Cruz yielded their time for the hard-working in this region. The three made a stop in Lamesa on Friday.

Farmer Kenny Ferguson was among hundreds at the Southwest Council of Agribusiness meeting at the B.E. Implement warehouse.

"I appreciate the fact they were here number one," he said. "I recognize that they do have a greater concern for us than we were aware of."

He said the current economic situation for cotton farmers needs some improvement.

"I remember being at the cotton gin," he said. "My dad and granddad even a long time ago, and the price of cotton looking at it at the gin were very similar what they are today. It is so unrealistic with how that could happen. But we are so far behind on where our prices should be at today as they were then."

Cotton prices coincide with the main topic at the meeting, which was the 2018 Farm Bill. Senator Cruz said he would like Secretary Perdue to extend the cotton gin cost sharing program, and classify cotton seed as another oil seed, which would get cotton producers protection as a covered commodity.

"Our farmers and ranchers have been hurting," Cruz said. "They have been hit hard. The cotton industry has been hit very hard. I have engaged in fighting for Texas farmers and ranchers for a long time."

The guest worker program is vital for production agriculture.  A lot of producers are struggling to find help. They want to see this issue addressed.

"I am optimistic that something can be done," Perdue said. "I think many people in Congress are understanding the need for a legal guest worker program in agriculture particularly. These are jobs that we are not seeing fulfilled with four percent unemployment rate. It is not a matter of payroll. It is the kind of jobs." 

Representative Conaway said he will work hard in the next year or so to get the Farm Bill done. He said producers deserve the stability. 

"I am talking to leadership, and they are going to give me floor time sometime late in the fourth quarter, early first quarter," he said. "Our committee is at work now. We've done all the work we need to do in the public. We are actually doing the hard lift of actually writing the bill.  I think the backdrop of the 14 vs 18 circumstances will make it less difficult, as well as the tragedies we have seen. I'm optimistic we can get this thing done."

Ferguson said he would like to see a good price support of the cotton product.

'We are not asking for a whole lot," he said. "But we need to get where we can stay competitive, and we can stay in business. We love what we do obviously, or we wouldn't be here. We just want to make a good honest living, and get a good price for our product."

The trio took the time to answer questions from the audience. Before West Texas, Secretary Perdue and Conaway were touring devastated ag areas impacted by Harvey.

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