⋅ BY DEBORAH WILLENBORG ⋅
The Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board (ARRPB) met here yesterday to hear activity reports and funding requests from USA Rice and The Rice Foundation.
USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward presented her organization’s financials, including a detailed analysis of how reduced acreage and inflation are negatively impacting the rice industry’s national trade association. She reminded the board about aggressive expense reductions and successful pursuit of new revenue sources USA Rice has undertaken over the last four or five years.
Ward also talked about the disturbing trend in Mexico that has the U.S. losing significant portions of the market due to both quality concerns and price. She then discussed some of the huge wins that emerged for the industry in 2022, made possible by the ARRPB’s support of the USA Rice Council, including the $250 million ad hoc rice farmer assistance, $50 million in emergency rice purchases for domestic food programs, and the $80 million USDA grant to USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited, and the National Black Growers Council for climate-smart commodity programs.
Michael Klein, USA Rice vice president of domestic promotion & communications, presented both international and domestic highlights, including exciting new programs in Mexico, Latin America, and Haiti, as well as promotion programs and partnerships in the U.S. market, and a continuing program to address the quality concerns in Central and Latin America raised earlier by Ward. He also shared the grand prize-winning video of the National Rice Month Scholarship contest, “This is Basically Rice,” from Bryant, Arkansas, high school senior Cole Skelley.
Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of The Rice Foundation, provided an update on the Foundation’s important work, including the stewardship of the Rice Leadership Development program that currently has three classes going through the program now because of pandemic delays in former classes.
The board had probing questions for all the speakers, and then voted unanimously to fund both the USA Rice Council and The Rice Foundation.
“We are quite proud of our programs and the results we deliver for the industry, so we always look forward to sharing that with the board and hearing their priorities,” said Ward. “We are grateful for their tremendous support and look forward to delivering them great results in 2023.”