Washington Meetings Keep Policy Makers Focused on U.S. Rice Industry Priorities

AR Delegation at US Capitol, four people in business attire stand in front of US Capitol Bldg
The Arkansas Delegation readies for a day on Capitol Hill (see photo gallery below)
Feb 09, 2024
WASHINGTON, DC – More than 30 USA Rice members fanned out on Capitol Hill and around Washington this week for more than 35 meetings with lawmakers, key Congressional staff, and Administration officials to share industry priorities including the importance of passing a comprehensive Farm Bill with a sound and strong safety net for rice farmers.

“We were unified with our messaging that the Farm Bill is still hugely important for us,” said LG Raun, a Texas rice farmer and chair of the USA Rice Farm Policy Task Force.  “The Price Loss Coverage program should be improved by increasing the current rice reference price as it’s based on cost of production data that is more than 10 years old.  In today’s environment, cost of production data from 10 months ago is out of date.”

Raun said his group talked about runaway input costs and stagnant prices as a result of global market manipulation by India as adding to the rice industry’s woes.

“U.S. rice acres in 2022 were the lowest in 40 years,” Raun said.  “The impact of the decline is significant: the average U.S. rice farm contributes $1 million to its local economy, and the industry provides more than 125,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in critical wildlife wetland habitat in the off-season.”

Raun added that rice farmers are 100 percent committed to conservation and sustainability, but that government conservation programs should focus on working lands, avoid inflexible climate-related sideboards, and be locally-led, voluntary, and incentive-based.

In addition to the Farm Bill, the two-day fly-in focused on challenges with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies; the current state of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and advocacy for USDA trade promotion and market development programs.

Tuesday afternoon, the USA Rice World Market Price (WMP) Subcommittee held their regular spring meeting for an update on this year’s planting progress, and to share industry feedback on data reporting with representatives from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Economic Research Service (ERS), and World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB).  USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor stopped by to discuss the global trade situation.

“I want to thank everyone who left their farms this week to join us in Washington to advocate on behalf of the entire industry,” said Mississippi rice farmer and USA Rice Chair Kirk Satterfield. “We really appreciate the many legislators and their staffs who joined us, and the new Rice Leadership Program graduates who were in town to see firsthand how building relationships with those responsible for making policy decisions in Washington is something we should all be focused on.”