Back in 1998 when the US Rice Producers Association (USRPA) was in its infant stages, there was some confusion among folks in the rice industry as to why there were two rice groups. During the past 13 years, new leadership throughout the rice industry, both farmers and processors along with affiliated industry, raise the same question. Maybe it’s time to take note from a letter to the editor of Rice Farming written 13 years ago by the USRPA board chairman at the time.
It’s worth clarifying some points regarding the new USRPA at the time, an organization comprised of producer groups from Texas, Mississippi and Missouri. The fact is that the USRPA did not leave the USA Rice Federation over some external rice industry issues but because the federation, as it was known, ceased to exist.
How Original Structure Worked
What was proposed and approved in 1994 was a federation among three organizations – the USA Rice Council, USA Producers Group and the USA Rice Mil-lers Association (RMA). Each group was given a “veto” power, and the board setup was six from each of the three groups.
The result was six millers and 12 producers on the board, and the funding was 85 percent from producers and 15 percent from millers. This was what was presented in 1994, and this was what every group agreed to and approved.
Then along came the 1996 Farm Bill debate. This split the federation between millers and producers, with co-op producers siding with the millers. The result was that the independent producers kept the federation from officially opposing “Freedom to Farm” and taking a position to favor a forced acreage coupling of 50 percent for rice.
All parties were allowed to go to their elected representatives and present their preference. After the bill was passed, some federation participants voiced their intentions to withdraw unless there was a change in the organization’s makeup.
New Structure Adopted
All participants felt that there was some room for change. The majority proposal increased the board of directors to nine miller representatives from six. The proposal also decreased producer representatives to nine from 12 and combined the two producer groups into one. The funding would remain 85 percent from producers and 15 percent from millers.
During this process, all three states told the board that we could not continue if such a structure passed. All attempts to compromise failed, and the structure was adopted. The three states immediately withdrew and formed USRPA. Had the structure not changed, the three states would still be in the federation.
Every year since the founding of the USRPA, there are issues too numerous to list that indicate the need for a single national rice farmer organization. USRPA stands ready to work with the USA Rice Federation on any issue and let our two voices speak in unison.
For more, visit www.usriceproducers.com.