- By Josie McLaurin •
Teams of rice farmers spread out across Capitol Hill recently to meet with lawmakers and key staff to share industry concerns and priorities as preparations for the 2023 Farm Bill get underway.
“We had excellent participation in our fly-in this week, our first in-person D.C. meetings in about two years,” said Kirk Satterfield, a Mississippi rice farmer and chair of USA Rice Farmers Board of Directors.
“Our teams were able to meet with more than 30 Members of Congress and they were very responsive to our issues.”
Satterfield said runaway input costs, access to skilled workers and trade and regulatory uncertainty were dominant issues in all the meetings.
“The current Farm Bill expires next year and, as with farming in general, there’s a lot of groundwork to be done,” he added. “We have seen a lot of government spending lately, both in response to the pandemic and the infrastructure package – which was good for agriculture and rural America by the way – and you have a lot of commodity prices looking good on paper.
But that’s not rice. Our trading partners are cheating, our input and labor costs are through the roof, our prices are not keeping up and suddenly the farm safety net – well-intended policy that it is – does not reflect current conditions.”
On Tuesday morning, in an early Farm Bill hearing at the House Agriculture Committee, Arkansas rice farmer Jennifer James joined corn, sorghum, soybean, wheat, cotton and peanut farmers to testify about the commodity title of the current Farm Bill and what she thinks the new Farm Bill should address.
“Other commodities might regard crop insurance as their primary safety net, but Title I of the Farm Bill — the Commodity Title — is the cornerstone of the safety net for rice farm families,” said James in her comments before the Committee.
“It helps us compete in a global marketplace that is highly distorted with high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. The fact is, U.S. Title I rice policy helps ensure that more of the world’s rice is produced sustainably in the U.S., following the highest environmental, safety and labor standards in the world.”
“We appreciate House Agriculture Committee Chair David Scott inviting the rice industry to participate in this hearing, and we are especially grateful to Jennifer for agreeing to share her insights,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.
“I also appreciate all our members who made the trip to Washington and the Members of Congress and their staffs who took time to meet with us and hear our concerns. It won’t be the last they hear from us, but I’m confident we can work together to achieve our mutual goals.”
Josie McLaurin is coordinator, Government Affairs and PAC for USA Rice Federation and can be reached at email@example.com.