Step 2 payments:
One of the three cotton competitiveness provisions intended to keep U.S. cotton competitive in domestic and export markets. Under the Step 2 provision, USDA is required to issue marketing certificates (or cash payments in lieu of certificates) to domestic users of upland cotton for documented purchases, and to exporters of upland cotton for documented sales, when certain U.S. cotton pricing benchmarks are exceeded. The payments provide a subsidy to U.S. cotton users and exporters so that U.S. rather than foreign cotton will be utilized, even when the former is higher-priced. Market developments triggered the availability of payments from late August 1991 through early December 1994, and again from mid July 1997 until mid December 1998, when funds ran out. The Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform (FAIR) Act of 1996 capped Step 2 payments during the FY1996-2002 period at $701 million.