WASHINGTON, June 17, 2015 – The House Agriculture Committee advanced bills that would allow new futures contracts for foreign-produced cotton and accelerate approvals for thinning trees on federal lands.

The cotton bill (HR 2620) would amend a 1916 law that restricts U.S.-listed cotton futures to domestically produced cotton that is inspected by the Agriculture Department and delivered to one of five U.S. cities. The bill would permit a commodity exchange to start handling futures for cotton that’s produced and marketed overseas.

The existing cotton contract fails to “accurately reflect price movements in foreign markets and therefore cannot provide an effective risk management tool,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, David Scott, D-Ga.

Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said the bill would “allow cotton merchants, ginners and shippers the opportunity to try and craft a new futures contract that better matches the risks they face in a global market place.”

The second bill, the Resilient Federal Forests Act, would provide categorical exclusions in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for thinning projects of up to 15,000 acres in some cases in national forests and on land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. Advocates say the logging would protect forests from fire, insects and disease.

The bill also is supposed to protect projects from delays by requiring bonding for legal challenges.

The House Natural Resources Committee had already approved the bill (HR 2647).  A summary of the bill is here

House Agriculture Committee approved both the cotton and forest bills on voice votes.