USA Rice members converged on Capitol Hill recently to begin the challenge of educating members of Congress and their staff about the rice industry and its legislative and regulatory priorities. With more than 100 new members this year, education was a key theme – especially about the tremendous economic impact provided by the U.S. rice industry.
An economic impact study conducted by the Agriculture and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M found that the U.S. rice industry creates $34 billion in economic activity and contributes to 128,000 jobs annually. The Federal Reserve also has said that agriculture is now driving the economic recovery just as it did during the last recession.
Don’t Single Out Agriculture
As Congress debates options to address the budget deficit, rice producers and other industry segments highlighted the fiscally responsible farm policy currently in place. Over the last five years, U.S. farm policy has been cut three times in an amount totaling more than $17 billion and contributed $4 billion directly to deficit reduction. If every other policy were cut by the same percentage as farm policy, it would reduce the deficit by $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years.
Farm policy constitutes just one quarter of one percent of the total federal budget and just 16 percent of the Department of Agriculture budget. If production costs rise sharply or crop prices collapse – or both – the current mix of farm policies may already be inadequate to avoid a financial crisis in the farm economy, which would reverberate throughout rural America and eventually reach urban centers.
The rice industry’s message is that production agriculture has already made a significant contribution to deficit reduction and should not be singled out for additional reductions. There will be nine billion people on the planet by 2050. Production must double to feed everyone – while using less water and land. We must recognize the importance of strong U.S. agricultural production to meet the needs of a growing populace.
What Needs To Happen In D.C.?
U.S. farmers and ranchers face an un-level global playing field marked by foreign subsidies and tariffs five to six times higher than U.S. farm policy provides producers. The playing field must be leveled to promote a truly free global market.
American agriculture needs pro-growth economic policies and business certainty from Washington. What would it take to accomplish this? The Environmental Protection Agency must be reined in, barriers to U.S. exports need to be removed, and we must pursue stable, long-term farm policies that allow farmers to plan and invest while maximizing economic activity and jobs.
Producers already face weather and market uncertainty. Uncertainty from Washington makes long-term planning and investment even tougher.
To learn more, visit www.usarice.com.