By Carroll Smith
When the song, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” was written in the mid 1980s, listening audiences picked up on the title and began using it as a positive mantra although the actual lyrics wear of a darker nature. To this day, the positive spin continues.
I was inspired by Betsy Ward’s column this month on page 14 to consider that the future of the U.S. rice industry is beginning to look much brighter. Ward is CEO of the USA Rice Federation. Following are several points that she makes:
“Quality of our crop has certainly been a factor recently, but we’re confident progress is being made on this issue – the challenge will be getting lost customers back,” Ward says. “We’ll win customers back with improved quality and our outstanding promotion efforts that have helped us create new markets in places like Columbia and have helped us carve out niches in difficult- to-access markets in places like Japan, Korea and Taiwan.”
As for the Farm Bill as it pertains to rice, she says, “We think with a choice of a Price Loss or Agricultural Coverage policy and new crop insurance provisions, rice will be provided an effective safety net.”
Addressing domestic farm and food policy, Ward points out, “We’ve also successfully partnered with the USDA to promote rice as a healthy dietary option through their ‘make half your grains whole’ promotion. This has opened the door for brown rice to make it onto school menus, and we’re working with chefs, dieticians, teachers and other school officials to make sure rice and rice messaging are all over our schools….
“Together we will build on our successes, overcome our challenges and make our collective future even brighter.”
Out in the field, Dr. Tim Walker, Mississippi Extension rice specialist, also is optimistic about the future of U.S. rice in his comments on pages 17 and 18. He says, “This year is certainly more exciting than the last few in the Magnolia state. The production of rice is being discussed again after the difficult winter months of 2010-2012. It is possible that our state may produce 200,000+ acres again….As one who works very closely with the public breeding community, I can say that our efforts have been re-doubled to ensure we do our part in turning the quality issue back into the ‘good graces’ of all of our end-users.”
And on page 5, Guatemalan rice miller Jose Antonio Corrales says, “I believe that most millers in Central America want to keep doing business with the U.S. The last two shipments of rice we received in 2013 were of very good quality. I hope in 2014 we will continue to see an improvement in U.S. rice quality.”
Yes, the U.S. rice industry has been faced with challenges in the past few years, but our spirit has not been broken, and our desire to make changes for the better is moving forward. As we embark upon the 2014 season, it’s time to keep this positive outlook in high gear and break out those shades!
Send your comments to: Editor, Rice Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Call (901) 767-4020 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.