Your voice in the market

USA Rice works to keep existing markets open and free of barriers as well as find new ones for U.S. rice.

By Betsy Ward President and CEO USA Rice Federation
By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice Federation

All indicators are pointing to a robust rice crop this year despite the devastating drought gripping parts of rice country. According to the National Agricultural Statistic Service (NASS), total planted rice acres are up about 18 percent. Many believe the passage of the Farm Bill and the stability it is offering could lead to increased acreage next year as well.

The bottom line is, more acres mean more rice, and this could be the start of a trend. So what now? That’s where we come in, your national trade association. It’s our job to keep existing markets for U.S. rice open and free of barriers and to find new markets and homes for your rice.

Sales Start At Home
In the domestic market, we work in the foodservice and retail sectors to stimulate U.S. rice consumption, but we also promote public policy designed to increase rice use there as well.

You may be familiar with the government’s nutrition guideline slogan, “Make half your grains whole!” Rice fits in perfectly, and we make certain rice is included as a solution for government nutrition programs, and particularly in America’s schools where we’ve seen brown rice use increase more than 200 percent since 2010 as a result of our efforts.

In the foodservice sector, we provide marketing and cooking information to encourage rice use, specifically urging the use of U.S.-grown rice. Whether it’s working with a restaurant chain that already uses rice, such as Chipotle to ensure they know U.S. rice is the way to go to reduce food miles, guarantee a high-quality product and support the U.S. economy; or reaching out to new potential end users to foster greater rice use with the same messages, USA Rice is front and center.

We communicate directly to consumers through our website, newly enhanced social media programs and by partnering with supermarkets to effectively deliver tested messages about rice we know they want to hear: “U.S. rice is gluten free, GMO free, locally grown, safe and nutritious.” We add messaging about environmental stewardship, conservation and sustainability, which are important drivers in some consumer decision making.

Over There, Over There!
The enhanced quality of the new crop, more competitive long-grain prices and exciting positive developments in food aid programs we’ve been fighting for will help us open more doors for your rice overseas in the coming year. From advising U.S. government trade negotiators, to bringing foreign delegations to the United States to see how our industry works like we did earlier this year with the Iraq Grain Board, we are constantly working to improve market access, while running robust promotion programs in key markets.

We recognize that in many markets – even our own – we are not always competing on a level playing field. As one California grower recently said, “We’re not growers here competing with growers there; we’re competing against an entire system that has been rigged from top to bottom to push us out of the market.”

He made those comments to investigators from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) during a meeting we set up, and I was glad he did. The USITC investigation into global rice markets is quite welcome, and we look forward to the findings (due next Spring) to help us further improve market access.

All of this is but a small sample of what we’re doing to make sure safe, delicious, high-quality and abundant U.S.-grown rice makes its way to plates here and around the world. We thank you for what you do, and for having the faith in us to help you in whatever way we can.

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