The rice industry is a big part of Louisiana and Vermilion Parish. It is a crop that makes millions for the state.
Government & Rice: Do they go together?
JENNINGS – The effects of the Trump administration’s policies pose a mixed bag of possibilities for American rice, a USA Rice official said at the recent (Feb. 7) annual joint meeting of the Louisiana Rice Council and Louisiana Rice Growers.
About 250 people attended the event. Gov. John Bel Edwards was scheduled to speak at the meeting, but he canceled to inspect tornado damage in southeast Louisiana.
Betsy Ward, USA Rice president, said President Trump’s nomination of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is a plus for Southern agriculture, and he favors a strong U.S. export market.
“I think this is a good appointment for us,” she said.
But she said Trump is opposed to NAFTA, which has been favorable to strengthening the Mexican market for U.S. rice. “It’s been a huge success story for us,” Ward said
Mexico, where 88 percent of the rice is from the U.S., is the No. 1 market for American rice. But with Trump’s cancellation of the Trans Pacific Partnership, Mexico is looking at pursuing individual trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries, she said.
Currently, Mexico imposes a 20 percent tariff on Vietnamese rice, but Mexico’s attitude toward the U.S. has chilled. “They could turn around and drop the tariffs tomorrow in retaliation,” she said.
Progress made with Cuba by the previous administration could be at risk now. “I think we’re taking a big pause,” Ward said.
The appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency is a plus for agriculture, with the expectation that he will roll back harmful regulations, she said.
Mike Strain, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry commissioner, said Cuba will buy $180 million of Vietnamese rice this year. “We could have rice there in two days,” he said.
Strain praised rice farmers for investing their check-off money for research and promotion, and he said the entire state benefits when the rice industry is doing well.
Michael Klein, USA Rice vice president for marketing and communications, said rice has been receiving positive publicity with a video by the restaurant chain P.F. Chang, and a Cooking Channel program by Chef Sara Moulton, who featured rice farmer Randy Thibodeaux. “Rice has a great story to tell about sustainability,” he said.
Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, said negotiations are progressing well with BASF for an agreement on the new rice technology, Provisia, being developed at the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. “I think we’re going to see things move in that area to help your industry,” he said.