Rice Farming

 - USA Rice Federation Update -

One-fifteenth to go!
Most farm law programs enacted

By Tommy Hoskyn
USA Rice Producers’ Group Chairman

By now you’ve heard the good news that our Farm Bill efforts have resulted in the best possible outcome in the current economic and political climate in Washington. Our industry has made a difference in the final outcome of the new farm law enacted by Congress despite an administration dead set against the realities and necessities required to continue the safety that is so important to our industry and to consumers.

While we had hoped to report that we had completed the Farm Bill process and that a new farm law was fully in effect, at press time we still had 1/15 of the way to go. We should take heart, though, that the 14/15 of the Farm Bill enacted into law includes the commodity program provisions most important to producers, and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture may now begin to implement them.

House passes law a second time after ‘clerical error’
The original Farm Bill sent to the president and quickly vetoed by him on May 22 — then subsequently passed again by the House and Senate in an override of that veto — was missing Title III, governing market access and foreign market development programs and food aid authorizations, including PL-480, among others, because of a clerical error.

The House voted 316-108 to override, with the Senate voting 82-13, and one senator voting “present.” All 12 rice-state senators voted for the override, which enabled, without any additional action, the Farm Bill’s other 14 titles to become law as The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.

The House administrative mistake forced representatives to pass the bill a second time on May 22 with Title III included in the legislation. House leaders called for the second Farm Bill vote on the same day to avoid any potential legal or other challenges that could be raised against the measure in the future and to prevent any further confusion. The House passed the completed version of the Farm Bill by a veto-proof 306-110 margin. All rice-district representatives approved the bill a second time, with the exception of Rep. Ron Paul, who did not vote.

Senate consideration of the complete bill, including the remaining trade title will need to be resolved after the Memorial Day recess, which ends June 2 for the Senate and June 3 for the House.

Should the Senate approve the bill a second time as expected, it will again be sent to the president for his consideration. Although he is expected to veto the bill again, he has the option of taking no action, whereby, after approximately 10 days, the legislation would become law. In the end, it will have taken nearly three years for Congress, the Bush administration and the agriculture sector to develop and pass a new, five-year farm law.

A sincere thanks for everyone’s efforts and support
We are well aware of how hard many members of Congress have worked on behalf of the U.S. rice industry and consumers, and we offer them our sincerest thanks — especially to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders who have worked tirelessly on this legislation. The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 provides farmers with the best-possible safety net given current political realities and will allow our industry to continue to meet U.S. and international consumer demand for the high-quality rice they have come to expect from the U.S. rice industry.

And let’s not forget the leadership of rice-state lawmakers who were so critical to the enactment of the new farm law, which provides a stable, effective safety net that is particularly important today given the exceptionally high cost of inputs. Even though most commodity prices have also risen recently, farmers, their lenders and our rural communities need the predictability provided by sound farm law, given the cyclical nature of agriculture and ever-increasing production costs.

This farm law maintains a market-oriented agriculture policy, and also includes reforms in the areas of payment limitations and program eligibilities — reforms demanded by numerous interests in the legislation.

Finally, let’s all acknowledge the work within our own industry that contributed mightily for the Farm Bill effort. Many of you reading this magazine and your colleagues wrote letters, made phone calls to or met with administration and congressional officials, testified at field hearings and in Congress, contributed time in industry meetings, etc. We could easily fill this column with names, alone, of everyone who contributed to the effort.

Your actions, their actions, all for the benefit of our needs — is what this farm-law process is all about. Let’s retain the lessons from this experience and look to the future while they are fresh on our minds because we’re only a few plantings away from starting the process all over again. Have a great summer!

For more about USA Rice programs, visit www.usarice.com.