Mar 02, 2023
WASHINGTON, DC – A group of rice millers and merchants spent time visiting with officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs mission area, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) as part of USA Rice’s fly-in this week.
The industry detailed the impact of bad trade actors, like India, on the competitiveness of the U.S. rice industry at home and throughout the world, advocating for the U.S. to take a case to the World Trade Organization (WTO). They also pressed officials about next steps on the two WTO cases won against China several years ago and frustration with market access for rice in China. The group reviewed the trade landscape and where opportunities for greater market access exist such as pursuit of a trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
“USA Rice shared with both USDA and with USTR’s Chief Ag Negotiator, Ambassador Doug McKalip, the importance of not only opening new markets for U.S. rice, but helping our industry maintain the markets we already have. And that includes enforcement of WTO commitments so that U.S. agriculture can compete on an even playing field,” said Bobby Hanks, Louisiana rice miller and chair of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee. “We need to see the U.S. engage at the WTO, hold our trading partners accountable there, or else look for other avenues to protect the global competitiveness of our critical industry.”
Frustration around the reliability of rail transportation, the industry’s preferred mode for domestic shipments, prompted a meeting with staff for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials and the federal rail regulators, the STB.
“We were encouraged by our conversations with both the Congressional staff and STB Member Patrick Fuchs regarding improved accountability by the railroads and tracking of performance metrics underway,” said Keith Glover, Arkansas rice miller and former chair of the USA Rice Millers’ Association. “Rail is the most efficient way for us to ship our rice around the country to retail, repackers, and other end users, and we’ve seen a significant decline in the service and reliability from what we once had. While trucking, barge, containers, and other modes of transport have somewhat recovered following COVID-related supply chain issues, rail is still lagging.”