2024 Starts a New Era for USA Rice, Prioritization Reset

By Peter Bachmann
President and CEO
USA Rice

January is the perfect time to reflect, recalibrate, and prioritize, and here at USA Rice we are gearing up for a big year.

For those that I have not yet had the pleasure of working with in my previous roles in government affairs and trade policy, I took the reins from Betsy Ward after her retirement late last year and am honored to serve the industry now as USA Rice’s CEO. 2024 will certainly present us with plenty of changes, opportunities, and—as always—challenges, and I look forward to tackling them head-on with all of you.

Throughout Betsy’s accomplished career with the industry, we’ve seen many “new” policies and programs implemented through Administrative and Congressional mandates. Take, for example, the development of ACRE and the subsequent shift to ARC/PLC; the creation of RCPP followed by Climate Smart Commodities; and especially the historic addition of the USDA ATP program, which dispersed new international trade promotion funding throughout commodities.

I’m beginning my tenure as CEO during a period of fine-tuning for many of those policies and programs, rather than an era of revolutionary changes. The new USDA $1.3 billion in RAPP funds will soon be allocated to commodity groups, for example. Farm Bill deliberation is circling around reference price increases, rather than full-blown programmatic changes. And of course, the Biden Administration is in a wrap-up year, with the general election just around the corner in November.

The rice industry’s priorities remain steadfast, but we are taking advantage of our leadership changes as an excuse to approach them a little differently than in the past. From my perspective, these are some of our top challenges:

• Holding India accountable for over-subsidizing their rice production, resulting in distorted world rice prices and causing rice exports from the Western Hemisphere to become less competitive.

• Increasing the PLC reference price for rice to align more with the 2024 cost of production.

• Improving the quality and consistency of U.S.-grown rice to better meet the needs of our diverse export markets and the high standards expected of our product.

• Highlighting the advantages of using U.S.-grown rice domestically over rice pretenders and imported rice.

• Seeking ways to reduce or slow rising input costs, including the growing labor market shortage, variable inflation and high interest rates, limited fertilizer supply, and more.

 I plan to use this column to dig deeper into some of these issues and how we propose to face them with our in-house experts, keeping you informed and engaged along the way.

Despite the hurdles we’re facing, this is a time of great potential. U.S. rice exports are recovering after several years of turbulence due to drought, world rice prices, and decreased margins compared to other crops. Consumers are increasingly looking for sustainable food with elements of traceability—a need that U.S. rice is well positioned to meet. As we start off this year with almost two dozen veteran staff and their decades of experience and expertise, I can confidently say that we’re up to the challenge.

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