Pictured Left to Right: Linda Raun, Chairman of the USA Rice Producers’ Group, Congressman Charles Boustany, Congressman Crawford and Reece Langley from the USA Rice Federation
Rice is more than an ingredient in gumbo or a side dish for Asian food. The American rice industry supports more than 128,000 jobs and contributes over $34 billion in total economic output every year. Rice is the world’s most widely consumed commodity and American rice plays an important role in meeting demand. If we prepare now, American farmers can lead the way in production as global demand for rice increases.
The growing American rice industry deserves a voice in the halls of Congress.
This week, I established the Rice Caucus in the United States House of Representatives. The caucus will be a platform to discuss government’s role in addressing challenges facing the rice industry.
The Rice Caucus is young, but growing. We have 16 members of the House who represent rice-producing districts. Both Democrats and Republicans have joined the caucus. I am proud of the bipartisan group that has come together to promote the long-term viability of rice in American agriculture.
In Arkansas’s First Congressional District, we know rice is a valuable commodity. Our district produces more rice than any other district in the country and Arkansas dedicates some 1,345,000 acres to producing rice each year.
Forming the Rice Caucus now has purpose. Next year Congress will draft a new Farm Bill. Next month the Super Committee, charged with reducing our nation’s deficit, will put forth recommendations for cutting federal spending. Forming the Rice Caucus now will give rice growers a voice in shaping federal policy. Working together we will make sure the needs of rice producers are heard in Congress.
In the future, the Rice Caucus will work to limit unneeded regulations from the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. In times of natural disaster, the caucus will help rice growers get the support they need. Trade is vital to the future of America’s rice industry. Recently passed trade agreements have created opportunities in Colombia and Panama, but rice was excluded from the Korean trade agreement. The Rice Caucus will work to make sure this bad precedent is not followed in future trade agreements.
Rice is the world’s most politically sensitive crop. Significant hurdles must be overcome to ensure that rice can sustain shifts in the market. The Rice Caucus will be a voice for American rice growers well into the future.