Feb 05, 2016
JONESBORO, AR – More than 400 growers from around the region packed the Arkansas State University Convocation Center here for the annual gathering of the local rice industry.
Following the official opening of the event with remarks from Arkansas Rice Council President Steve Orlicek, USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward provided a brief overview of USA Rice priorities and thanked Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward and Congressman Rick Crawford for their support of the rice industry.
Secretary Ward then spoke about an upcoming trip to Cuba and the potential impact of this important market on the Arkansas rice industry.
Attendees also heard from Congressman Crawford who has a bill in Congress that many think presents the best opportunity for getting U.S. rice to Cuba quickly – even before the embargo is lifted.
“The actions last week by the Obama Administration to clear the way for all manner of U.S. goods and services to enter Cuba except agriculture was frustrating,” said Dow Brantley, Arkansas Rice Farmers chairman. “But we’re grateful Congressman Crawford has introduced his bill to get rice moving there while Congress and the Administration continue to fight about the embargo.”
U.S. Senator John Boozman also attended the event and spoke with USA Rice about his efforts, along with Representative Crawford, to get U.S.-grown rice into a new food aid program targeting the Syrian refugee crisis (see “USA Rice Efforts Result in Congressional Action on Rice Food Aid” above).
“I think every American knows we can and should do more for people suffering around the world, and sending our rice to help those refugees is about the least we can do, so we appreciate Senator Boozman and Congressman Crawford and other leaders in Congress working to make that happen,” said Brantley.
The event featured a packed trade show and dynamic programming throughout, including sessions: farm bill implementation, water quality and quantity, and the USA Rice-DU Regional Conservation Partnership Program. USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely also led a lively breakout session to discuss interpretations to the Actively Engaged Rule in the 2014 Farm Bill.
“While there’s no doubt the Farm Bill has provided some level of assurance to rice farmers, this actively engaged rule missed the mark and is disconnected from the reality of the farming landscape today,” he said. “I encourage growers to visit with their local FSA office to discuss the potential impacts to their operation and make sure that they don’t miss any deadlines for farm reconstitution.”