USA Rice Advocacy Gets Results in Food Aid Debate

Group of LA farmers & millers meet w/Rep Ralph Abraham
Jamie Warshaw (center) at USA Rice 2016 GAC
Mar 18, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – During USA Rice’s 2016 Government Affairs Conference here last month, USA Rice members educated Members of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations on the importance of maintaining in-kind commodities in the food aid program during emergency response efforts around the world, and asked specifically that U.S.-grown rice, including fortified rice, be prioritized for delivery to those in need.

The payoff came yesterday when, at an Ag Subcommittee hearing, Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL), argued in favor of funding for USDA’s Food for Peace program saying, “I and others in Congress are concerned that moving the American farmer and shipper from the participation in this tradition of the Food for Peace program does not create intended efficiencies, but will instead lead to cuts in the program due to lack of support.”

Aderholt concluded, “Without the support and the participation of the American farmer and shipper, it's hard for many of us to go back to our constituencies and justify spending more money on foreign aid programs at a time when our nation's deficit is out of control.”
Funding for USDA’s Food for Peace program that provides aid to countries in-need has been under attack by the Administration and some Members of Congress since the negotiations for the 2014 Farm Bill.  Some groups want to significantly reduce funding for the program while others want to shift spending from currently providing in-kind, U.S.-grown commodities to cash vouchers to procure food in foreign markets.

Jamie Warshaw, Louisiana rice miller and chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee was among those who met with Chairman Aderholt last month.  Warshaw said, “We talked with Chairman Aderholt about the rice industry’s priorities for the year, one of which is maintaining the current levels of in-kind food aid.  And it’s obvious that meeting paid off after hearing his support for our concerns and those of other commodity organizations seeking to preserve this important role that American farmers and American businesses play in sending our abundant crop to those in need.”

Earlier this year, Representative Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Senator John Boozman (R-AR) sent a letter signed by 20 lawmakers representing seven states across the nation’s rice growing territory that requests Food for Peace funds for FY 2016 be prioritized for rice shipments.  Rice is the most widely consumed crop worldwide and yet U.S. international food aid shipments of it have been steadily decreasing over the last five years.