The USA Rice Federation gave U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-1) its “Friend of the U.S. Rice Industry Award” this week, giving Crawford the first such award following his service during the 2014 Farm Bill.
Crawford accepted the award during the Federation’s annual “Government Affairs Conference” held in Washington, saying rice production plays a vital role in Arkansas’ economic landscape.
“Our state contributes nearly half of all U.S. rice production, pouring in more than $6 billion to our state’s economy and supporting more than 25,000 jobs,” Crawford said. “Knowing rice’s importance to Arkansas, it’s a high honor for the USA Rice Federation to call me an ‘industry friend.’”
Newport, Ark. rice grower Jeff Rutledge said citizens have grown increasingly detached from agriculture, so having Congressional Members who understand farm issues is important.
“Congressman Crawford is a strong advocate for our industry, was instrumental in helping get the Farm Bill through Congress, and is a true friend of the U.S. rice industry,” Rutledge said. “We’re grateful for his support.”
USA Rice Federation President & CEO Betsy said having Crawford helping with the 2014 Farm Bill proved necessary.
“The Farm Bill was a long time coming, and navigating the complex legislation and negotiations was difficult,” said Ward. “Whether the issue is farm policy or trade, Congressman Crawford is a vital ally for our industry, and we appreciate and value our relationship.”
Each year, U.S. farmers produce about 10 million tons of rice, half of which is exported. Meanwhile, 85 percent of the rice consumed in U.S. is grown domestically.
Arkansas produces rice on about 1.3 million acres each year, with the crop serving as the top agricultural export and second-highest value commodity. Crawford said Arkansas’ First Congressional District grows a large portion of that crop.
“The First District has the state’s top-five rice-producing counties,” he said. “It’s reasonable to say there’s more rice within our District than any other within the U.S.”
Crawford said rice’s concentrated production area gives the crop high importance among Arkansans, but it has also disconnected the grain from the rest of the country.
“Many people love to eat rice on a daily basis, but they don’t know we even grow it here in Arkansas,” Crawford said. “I feel it’s my job to educate the folks in Washington about what we do and to make sure the rice industry has fair representation during agricultural discussions.”