Rice Gets Full Coverage at Southwest Ag Issues Summit

Feb 10, 2017
Summit coordinator and emcee Linda Raun
FORT WORTH, TX – Earlier this week, USA Rice participated at the Southwest Ag Issues Summit, hosted by the Southwest Council of Agribusiness and the Texas Ag Forum, where farm policy leaders from across the country with an interest in Texas agriculture came together to discuss the 2014 Farm Bill, the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill, and the ever-changing landscape of Texas and national politics.  House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Representatives Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Filemon Vela (D-TX), and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) were there talking about the important role agriculture plays in the U.S. and state economies.

Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs, participated on a panel of veteran Congressional staff talking about what it will take to pass the 2018 Farm Bill.  Other panelists from national grower organizations representing corn, sugar beet, wheat, sorghum, and cotton, joined in the discussion.

Mosely shared frank advice with the audience: “It’s important for commodity and other farm groups to come together ahead of Farm Bill negotiations.  Reaching consensus will be a challenge but we’d all be better off if we have a united front going in to the Farm Bill.  At the same time, I believe that it’s equally important to stay in your own lane and really focus on what’s best for your organization without getting caught up in someone else’s priorities or the type of safety net that works or doesn’t work for them.”

“We shouldn’t get ahead of our Congressional leaders who have to carry the Farm Bill through the legislative process,” Mosely cautioned.  “We have to free them up to navigate their respective chambers and avoid boxing in the [House and Senate] Ag Committee Chairs, with regard to splitting the nutrition title or ways to handle other legislative approaches.  It’s best to trust that they can maneuver through the legislative process without a truckload of backseat drivers from industry.”

Blake Gerard, Missouri rice farmer and chairman of the USA Rice Farmers, participated on a grower panel with other commodity representatives and was quick to mention the importance of a strong farm safety net for the viability of rice farmers.  “Rice is a unique crop in terms of the world market, we have a really volatile price and those fluctuations make it hard to plan for the future, especially since our input costs are higher than most other commodities and the investment in irrigation-related infrastructure just adds to that expense.  If we don’t have the certainty that we’ll at least be able to recoup our cost of production, we cannot stay in business.”

Gerard added, “Rice is approaching the next Farm Bill with a vested interest in a lot of different policies so it’s important that we’re evaluating what we have and building upon that.  Everything from commodity programs, conservation programs, crop insurance, and food aid, all play a big part in the viability of our complex market.  We’re looking forward to working with the rest of the commodity and agriculture organizations to ensure this legislation provides the certainty we rely on.”

Another rice industry rep on the Summit program was Linda Raun, Texas rice farmer and chairman of the Texas Ag Forum and Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group.  Raun helped coordinate the landmark event, and in addition to organizational responsibilities, she served as the emcee for Monday’s lunch session and provided closing remarks for the Summit.

Dr. Joe Outlaw, co-director of Texas A&M’s Agricultural and Food Policy Center joined Raun in planning and participating in the two-day event, and said, “One of the most interesting parts of this entire meeting for me is how commodity groups sat side by side and said that they're going to work together.  The reality is this:  they're going to try to, but it's all going to come down to money.”