Meetings with USDA, FAS Focus on Trade, Compliance

Business group seated at table, bald man speaks into microphoneWASHINGTON, DC -- Yesterday, USA Rice held its tri-annual World Market Price Subcommittee meeting with members from across the country gathered here to participate in a series of sessions focused on rice stocks, trade issues, and the global rice outlook.

In a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), subcommittee members compared USDA projected numbers with their own planting and production projections.  Overall, the numbers of actual acres planted estimated by members were higher than what NASS published in the March Prospective Plantings report, particularly in California that could come in as much as 50,000 acres above initial estimates.

The newly installed Administrator at USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), Ken Isley, and several of his staff joined the meetings for discussions of critical trade issues including several ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) cases, a country-by-country overview of rice imports, exports, and consumption, and a robust discussion of the impacts of Brexit on U.S.-EU-UK trade.

FAS reported that two rice-related WTO cases are proceeding on schedule.  One deals with a U.S. challenge to the level of China’s support to corn, wheat, and rice producers.  USA Rice was a driving force behind this case because China is subsidizing growers of these crops well in excess of what is allowed by WTO rules.  A decision by the WTO is expected in early 2019.  The other case is newer, and challenges the way China administers the allocation of import licenses for wheat, rice, and corn under the country’s tariff rate quotas.  

Earlier this month, the United States filed a first-of-its-kind “counter notification” in the WTO that listed India’s support for rice and wheat producers.  This counter notification demonstrated that support from the Indian government makes up about three quarters of the value of India’s rice production.  India’s allowable level of support within the WTO is 10 percent and it has been surmised that this is the explanation for India suddenly jumping up to be the world’s number one exporter of rice.

On Brexit, FAS staff explained that negotiations are expected between the United States and the European Union over the allocation of exiting EU tariff rate quotas, including for U.S. rice.  At this time,the EU is seeking to allocate a portion of each TRQ to the departing UK and retain the remainder of the TRQs with the EU.  USA Rice joins the U.S. government and many other WTO members in arguing that all exiting TRQs should remain with the EU, but especially the rice TRQ that was established in 1995 when Sweden, Finland, and Austria joined the EU and has nothing to do with the UK.

Finally, serious concerns were raised over insufficient reporting of exports and sales to FAS’s Export Sales reporting system.  Subcommittee members emphasized support for compliance with this reporting requirement.  FAS representatives stressed significant work was being done to minimize inadequate reporting and welcomed support from the industry.

“The World Market Price Subcommittee meetings provided a great forum to cover a broad range of domestic and policy issues with key officials from USDA, including Administrator Isley,” said Bob Cummings, USA Rice COO.  “Having producer, miller, and merchant leadership in town also complements USA Rice’s PAC and outreach efforts on Capitol Hill.”