Feb 16, 2018
WASHINGTON, DC – This week, 100 members of USA Rice representing all six rice-producing states gathered in the nation’s capital to meet with legislators and administration officials for the annual Government Affairs Conference (GAC). For two days, USA Rice members met with Congressional leaders to discuss the Farm Bill and other priorities for the rice industry, breaking with tradition by including visits to members of Congress outside of rice-producing areas.
This year, the conference had an ambitious goal of meeting with every member of Congress who sits on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and leaders of committees addressing key trade issues.
By the time the conference was over on Thursday, USA Rice members had visited close to 100 different offices to educate legislators and their staff about farm policy and trade issues directly affecting the industry.
“This was a unique opportunity for us to meet with members of Congress who otherwise might not have much exposure to the rice industry,” said Joe Mencer, chair of the USA Rice Government Affairs Committee. “It’s important for them as members of the House and Senate Ag Committees to hear our concerns and understand our priorities, but also find common ground in their priorities like nutrition policy.”
The groups of delegates this year were also mixed rather than organized by state, as they had been in the past, giving members from different areas a chance to work together and speak to congressional leaders about their common priorities and unique challenges.
Members also attended a session on pesticide regulations with more than 100 staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and met with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to discuss conservation priorities and the success of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
Delegations met with staff from the U.S. Agency on International Development (USAID) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to talk about USA Rice’s ongoing involvement in fortified rice for food aid and with the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) where discussions centered around USA Rice’s various international promotion programs. Additionally, a team focused on trade met with staff from the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA to discuss market challenges, and the 2016 Rice Leadership Development class visited with Colombian Ambassador Camilo Reyes to discuss the vital trade between our two countries.
“This week opened many doors and laid a foundation for strengthening relationships with key policy makers on Capitol Hill,” said USA Rice Vice President Government Affairs Ben Mosely. “With a Farm Bill on the horizon and NAFTA on the block for renegotiations, these conversations came at a critical point. Members definitely left a strong impression and created new advocates in Congress.”