Trade is Major Focus at USA Rice Government Affairs Conference

Feb 26, 2016
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WASHINGTON, DC – The 2016 USA Rice Government Affairs Conference (GAC) blew in with the storm system that hit Washington this week and flooded the town with USA Rice advocacy teams who came to Capitol Hill to meet with representatives in every rice producing state, as well as with other key Congressional leaders, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS).

Trade Talk
Trade was a major topic of conversation whether it was one-on-one exchanges with legislators or high level meetings with Administration officials.  “Everyone got the same message,” said USA Rice Chairman Dow Brantley.  “For the U.S. rice industry to thrive we need to level the global playing field by enforcing WTO commitments, lift the trade embargo with Cuba, and get sound free trade agreements that improve market access and foreign market development for rice.”

At a meeting with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Brantley reminded Ambassador Michael Froman that “we’re seeing what are very likely illegal production and/or export subsidies for rice in places like Vietnam, Brazil, and Thailand.”  USA Rice recently completed a market impact study evaluating the economic ramifications these subsidies have on U.S. trade and agreed to share that data with USTR to bolster the argument of fiscal injury due to illegal subsidies that cause the U.S. to lose market share.

Newsworthy Coverage at General Session
RFD-TV broadcast live from this year's conference, interviewing growers from Arkansas, California, and Louisiana.  USA Rice's own cameras also recorded interviews with growers, Natural Resource Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller, keynote speaker Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA), and others.

Boustany talked about his efforts to gain more access for rice into Japan through his discussions with USTR and his commitment to enforcement of WTO agreements for U.S. competitors.  Chief Weller praised USA Rice for “being in the vanguard of promotion of conservation and sustainability” through its partnership with Ducks Unlimited.  And finally, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden gave a farewell address to the industry as she is leaving USDA at the end of the month.  USA Rice presented her with a Distinguished Service Award for her work implementing the 2014 Farm Bill.

Advocacy in Action
Throughout the week, the USA Rice PAC and rice industry PAC's hosted multiple fundraising events for Members of Congress.  All six rice producing states came together to raise and contribute a combined total of over $100,000 to help the reelection campaigns of five rice industry champions.

"Rice farmers, millers, and merchants all agree, it's important for the rice industry to support those who support us, and this week we did just that," said USA Rice PAC Chairman Sean Doherty.

Industry Involvement Ramps Up

The 2016 GAC was the most heavily attended yet, with more than 120 USA Rice members taking time out of their busy schedules to come to Washington.

“Not only are we able to show industry unity across state lines here, but across sectors as well, with growers, millers, merchants, exporters, and allied businesses coming together to advocate for the entire industry,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “Asking people to drop what they’re doing, leave their businesses and their families behind and pound the halls of Congress with us for three days is no small thing.  But it makes all the difference in the world up here.”