Rice Farming

New Logo Launched

Home-grown rice seeks home-grown support

By Anne Banville

Something new and exciting is happening in the grocery store rice aisle. Consumers are choosing rice packages featuring a distinctive new “Grown in the USA” logo to help them identify and buy 100 percent domestically grown rice.

“The rice industry needed to become proactive about promoting the benefits of rice grown in the United States and competitive in developing domestic aromatic varieties to compete with imported jasmine and basmati,” says Clarence Berken, chairman of the USA Rice Council, the promotion arm of the rice industry.

“In creating the logo, the USA Rice Federation acted on research showing that ‘buying American’ to support the economy and U.S. farmers is important to consumers and foodservice professionals,” Berken explains.

“The new logo is a powerful marketing tool for the industry. Most consumers did not know that nearly 85 percent of the rice they consume is grown here or about the high quality and wholesomeness of domestic rice. The logo allows us to say to consumers, ‘When you want the standard for excellence, choose U.S.-grown rice.’

“Buying U.S.-grown rice helps support farmers and rural communities across the Mid-South and in California, which in these tough economic times is critical to American producers,” he adds.

Rice companies & restaurateurs show support
Eighteen rice companies so far have licensed the logo for use on packaging containing rice grown and packaged in the United States for domestic and worldwide markets. (See page 18). These companies represent about 72 percent of the domestic market.

Two Arkansas restaurateurs have licensed the logo to feature it on menus and in promotions to show their support for the domestic rice industry. Other foodservice operators who use U.S.-grown rice will be offered the opportunity as well.

USA Rice Federation supports the Grown in the USA logo through marketing and public relations promotion activities to inform consumers about the 19 billion pounds of rice produced annually in the United States.

In addition, the rice industry is working alongside research agencies to encourage the development of domestically grown aromatic rice varieties.

Louisiana, Arkansas, California, Mississippi and Texas report promising lines in development, and the LSU AgCenter just released a new aromatic variety known as “Jazzman,” which will be available in 2009 as foundation seed – the earliest certified seed available for cultivar seed production.

“The introduction of new aromatic varieties that are acceptable to consumers will show the marketplace that the rice industry is dynamic – we can meet changing consumer demand,” Berken says.

A top priority: Develop more U.S. aromatic varieties

With these important milestones accomplished, what lies ahead?

“We will consider other steps the Federation can take to keep a level playing field,” Berken says.

“But the real answer in the long-term is for the domestic industry to continue to develop its own aromatic varieties. There’s a definite consumer market for it.”

While the industry moves towards that goal, the Federation will continue to promote the benefits of U.S.-grown rice.

“We are seeing news stories appear about ‘the growing power of domestic rice,’ and a chef quoted as saying ‘with all the rice we grow here, it doesn’t make sense to bring rice in from thousands of miles away,’ so we know we are doing something right,” Berken says. “This is an idea whose time has come. As a producer, I am very proud the rice industry is accomplishing this.”

Anne Banville is the USA Rice Federation VP for Domestic Promotion. Contact her at abanville@usarice.com.