USA Rice Members Update and Educate on Capitol Hill

White woman holding pen and gesturing with hands holds court at table of white men wearing suits
Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith at the head of the table
Feb 08, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – USA Rice’s Government Affairs Conference wrapped up here after four days of meetings in and around the nation’s capital.  About 150 members from all six rice-producing states took part in more than 90 meetings with Senators, Representatives, their staffs, and members of the Trump Administration.

Of particular interest was Farm Bill implementation, trade issues, and rice pretenders.

“It’s not a secret that all the conflict in Washington is impacting government results, but the last Congress did get a Farm Bill through, and we opened every meeting by thanking the Members who voted for it and the staff on the Agriculture Committees for what was a very heavy lift,” said Charley Mathews, Jr., a California rice farmer and chairman of USA Rice.  “But we are also looking at a large freshman class, many of whom are on the ag committees but don’t have a lot of experience in the sector, at least not with rice.  So there was a lot of education going on as well, which is very important as we move to the Farm Bill implementation phase.”

USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward said the rice pretender issue struck chords with several Members.

“The Standard of Identity issue goes beyond rice and processed vegetables mislabeling themselves as rice,” she said.  “The dairy industry and the meat industry are all facing similar issues so many Members were familiar with the notion of mislabeled foods creating consumer confusion.  There was a lot of interest in clearing things up for American consumers.”

And with about 50 percent of the annual U.S. rice crop exported each year, there is rarely a USA Rice - government meeting that doesn’t at least touch on the topic of trade.

“Our champions are well-aware of our goals here – expanded existing markets such as Mexico, Japan, and Iraq, and finding new opportunities in promising markets such as China,” said Sarah Moran, USA Rice vice president international.  “In addition to updating Members on developments in these and other markets, we also had the opportunity to push for increased funding for USDA programs that promote U.S. ag products overseas on which we and many commodities rely.”

At the wrap-up meeting on Wednesday afternoon, USA Rice Vice President Government Affairs Ben Mosley thanked USA Rice members for taking time away from their farms and businesses to come to Washington and advocate on behalf of industry issues they face each and every day.  “We also appreciate Members of Congress and their staffs for meeting with our members this week,” he added.