The fund, which is subject to transparency and audits, was scheduled to continue until the next farm bill’s passage or a mutually agreed solution is reached. The Flake and DeLauro amendments would end those payments, thus putting the United States in violation of the agreement and exposing a broad range of sectors of the U.S. economy to more than $800 million in harmful trade retaliatory measures by Brazil.

Specifically, the Flake amendment would reduce upland cotton direct payments by the amount necessary to fund the Brazil Cotton Institute. The amendment is the latest in a long line of attempts to undermine or alter the Framework Agreement achieved by the United States and Brazilian governments.

“It is unfortunate that Representative Flake’s amendment will divert funds from the most trade compliant provision in the farm safety net and also squarely places the burden of the dispute on upland cotton programs, even though export credit programs account for 80 percent of Brazil’s retaliation authority,” Parker said. “Representative DeLauro’s amendment goes a step further by diverting the funds away from the Brazil Cotton Institute, and thus violating the government-to-government agreement.

“Actions by the Appropriations Committee have violated the Framework Agreement that had already established a clear path to resolving the ongoing WTO trade dispute. Provisions in the Framework establish principles that will likely mean substantive changes to upland cotton programs as part of the 2012 farm bill. The U.S. and Brazilian governments negotiated a detailed process that will resolve the trade dispute and Congress should let that process come to fruition.”

Halves or thirds

Flake’s amendment to lower the adjusted gross income (AGI) test to $250,000 from the current farm law’s $750,000 in on-farm income and $500,000 in off-farm income would affect farmers participating in all farm programs, not just cotton.

“In the 2008 farm bill, Congress went through a lengthy debate before imposing tighter eligibility requirements. It is anticipated that the Agriculture Committees will debate eligibility provisions in the next farm bill. Any debate or changes to those provisions should only be done by the authorizing committees as part of the next farm bill.”

In the past, farm organizations would turn to the Senate where leaders of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry would remove such language from the farm bill and force it to be resolved through a conference committee. Whether the new chairman of the committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., will take such a position is up for conjecture.

Parker also noted that row crop farmers have made investment decisions based on current law. Given the current budget-cutting mood in Congress, it’s doubtful the promises made in previous legislation will even be considered.

“The actions by the House Appropriations Committee undermine the critical safety net of farm programs in an uncertain economic climate,” Parker said.