CHICAGO (B)--The National Cotton Council announced it will lobby to change an agriculture relief package passed by the House Agriculture Committee June 20, with the intent of bringing cotton farmers more dollars. The committee passed a bill totaling $5.5 billion to help farmers, defeating a proposal by panel Chairman Larry Combest, R-TX, who wanted to set $6.5 billion as the level of emergency assistance USDA would distribute for agriculture in 2001.

Key provisions of the measure that passed are $4.622 billion in supplemental market loss assistance payments and $84.7 million to producers and first handlers of cottonseed. The package also included a no-cost amendment that would increase the loan deficiency payment/marketing loan payment cap for 2001 crops to $150,000--the same cap in place for the 1999 and 2000 crops.

"U.S. cotton is an industry in crisis," said James Echols, NCC chairman. "Obviously, we are pleased cottonseed assistance was included (in today's package), but we will seek opportunities to improve the package as the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate take up the bill."

The Memphis merchant noted NCC had communicated strong support for a supplemental Agriculture Market Transition Act payment "at the 1999 rate" to be distributed as soon as possible as a way to address farmers' needs. NCC economists estimate the House bill will provide a payment to cotton farmers of 6.7 cents prior to Oct. 1.

Cottonseed assistance also would be paid before Oct. 1 under the House plan. First handlers of cottonseed would receive a payment equal to 87.4% of the payment made just a few weeks ago on the 2000 crop of cottonseed.

"We appreciate the House action in finding a mechanism for timely payments in the form of market loss assistance and cottonseed and oilseed assistance," Echols said.

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