COVID-19 will test us, but we will not falter

Betsy Ward

By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

These are difficult times for us all, to be sure. As I write this, sitting not in my office with a view of the Washington Monument but rather in my home in suburban Maryland, I can’t help but think how much our lives have changed in just one week. I’m trying to imagine what conditions will exist as you read this, some weeks after I’ve written it.

What new closures and bans on travel and gatherings will have been implemented? Where will researchers be with a vaccine for COVID-19? What will our economy be doing? How will our health care system be faring?

It’s nearly impossible to answer these questions; however, the one constant in all of this is the piece that drives us forward — Americans will be eating. They will need food today, next month and next year. And everyone who works in the U.S. rice industry has a key role to play to supply this much-needed staple.

While we at USA Rice are working remotely and don’t know when we will be able to return to our offices, we are still hard at work — proudly — for an industry that has been deemed essential for reasons of national security. Our jobs exist to support you and ensure you have the tools to grow, harvest and deliver a rice crop each year to the American consumer and to our customers around the world.

I know our growers are always proud of what they do — they should be. Every year, they risk everything and take on Mother Nature in the name of feeding others. They do it quietly, without complaint and every year they rise to the task, no matter what is thrown their way — too much water, not enough water, plant disease, invasive pests, hurricanes and more. Nature tries to break your spirit, and she tries hard.

empty rice shelvesThis disease is no different. It is a challenge — a serious one — but it can be overcome. We will succeed as a nation. While the health care workers and scientists are the ones who will eventually vanquish COVID-19, it is you who will help make it possible by keeping the nation fed.

Keeping us comfortable and confident when we sit down to family meals with our loved ones or see all the charitable efforts going on around us to feed those in need, it is rice, your rice, that is often at the center.

I am proud to represent you; thank you for allowing me to. And on behalf of a grateful nation, let me say thank you for what you are doing for us all.