Cotton producers applauded another political move this week as the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it's revamping its ginning assistance program.

This comes less than a month after a move by Congress to make cotton-seed eligible for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage in the 2018 crop year. The National Cotton Council has described the subsidies as a long-term fix, and now the ginning assistance program as a more short-term fix to the struggles in cotton farming caused mainly by the drop in price.

Rep. Jodey Arrington said these two fixes are very significant to his district, and he believes there's hope heading into this farm season like there hasn't been in prior years.

"I hear it in their voices — there is hope and there is a lot more peace of mind and confidence that (farmers) can do what they love to do," Arrington said Friday. "They still struggle, especially with low prices, but this means if they have a few bad years in a row then hopefully they'll be able to survive. Without it, they can't."

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last weekend that he's helping cotton producers through a Cotton Ginning Cost Share program. And similar to when Congress passed the safety net, the Plains Cotton Growers sent out a news release shortly afterwards applauding the most recent move.

"We are grateful for the opportunity for assistance, because our producers certainly need it," PCG President Johnie Reed said in a press release. "We've been dealing with many factors over the past few years that are beyond our control, and we thank Secretary Perdue and the USDA for responding to their (cotton producers') needs and helping ensure a stronger future for cotton."

Under the program, which will be administered by the Farm Service Agency, cotton producers may receive a cost share payment based on a producer’s 2016 cotton acres reported multiplied by 20 percent of the average ginning cost for each production region, according to a press release from the USDA.

The sign-up period for the ginning assistance program runs from March 12 to May 11, 2018.

Perdue said cotton producers confront high input and infrastructure costs, which leaves them more financially leveraged than most of their colleagues. This economic squeeze has been magnified with low prices, and this payment is designed to offset some of the ginning costs.

It'll be a one-time payment — the payment rate for Texas will be $19.65 per acre, with the same eligibility requirements as the last time this program was available, with a $40,000 producer payment limit. This amount, according to PCG, is anticipated to cover about 20 percent of the cost to gin an acre of cotton. 

“America’s cotton producers have now faced four years of financial stress, just like the rest of our major commodities, but with a weaker safety net,” Perdue said in a press release. “That economic burden has been felt by the entire cotton market, including the gins, cooperatives, marketers, cottonseed crushers and the rural communities that depend upon their success.”

Arrington worked with the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Midland, in 2017 to collect 109 signatures from House members on a letter sent to President Donald Trump urging him to re-launch this program ahead of the next Farm Bill.

Arrington this week also applauded Secretary Perdue for his actions. He said this is minor fix will especially benefit younger farmers.

“With this disaster relief assistance from USDA, along with the recent passage of legislation to permanently restore cotton back under the protections of Title 1 of the Farm Bill’s safety net, the future of the cotton industry in (this district) looks much brighter," Arrington said. "I want to thank Sonny Perdue and his staff for their strong support. I appreciate his commitment to the cotton industry and look forward to continuing to work with him as we move forward with the next Farm Bill.”

A release from the Plains Cotton Growers said cotton growers should watch for a letter and pre-filled application from the Farm Service Agency in the mail. For more on the Cotton Ginning Cost Share Program, growers can www.fsa.usda.gov/cgcs or contact a local Farm Service Agency county office.

PCG has five remaining information sessions about the 2018 seed cotton program. The next scheduled information session is at the Forrest Park Community Center in Lamesa at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 24. Another is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday, March 26, at the Ollie Liner Center in Plainview.