• Trump Budget Declares War on Agriculture

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 23, 2017
    Let the budget battle begin
    Trump-Budget,-fighters
    WASHINGTON, DC – President Trump released his detailed, $4.1 trillion federal budget today, and while every area of the federal government except defense and infrastructure saw cuts, the cuts to agriculture and rural areas are disproportionately severe by anyone’s standards.
     
    The total mandatory spending cuts proposed far exceed those signaled earlier this year in the President’s Skinny Budget:  $240.7 billion over 10 years, or a 27.5 percent budget cut.  Of that, crop insurance is targeted for $28.562 billion in cuts over 10 years, or a 36 percent reduction and more than 10 percent of the total cuts.  This includes a $40,000 payment limit on premium discounts, a $500,000 AGI means test, and the elimination of premium discounts on the Harvest Price Option (HPO).
     
    With respect to the Commodity Title, the Administration proposes cuts of $653 million over 10 years through the imposition of a $500,000 AGI means test, down from the current $900,000.
     
    The Conservation Title is cut by $5.755 billion over 10 years, or 9.6 percent through the “streamlining” of programs.  
     
    The Nutrition Title is slated for cuts to the tune of $193.287 billion over 10 years, or 28.7 percent.  This includes reforms to SNAP ($190.932 billion) and retailer user fees ($2.355 billion).
     
    Some other notable cuts include $11.571 billion over 10 years through the elimination of “small” programs, and user fees being imposed by FSIS, APHIS, GIPSA, and AMS, as well as the elimination of interest payments to electric/telecom utilities, and the elimination of the Rural Economic Development Program.

    The budget also proposes eliminating the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) and the Market Access Program (MAP), both of which are important to the rice industry that exports about 50 percent of the crop annually.  At a February, 2017 House Agriculture Committee hearing on international market development in the next Farm Bill, Dr. Gary Williams of Texas A&M said that according to a study done by Texas A&M, Oregon State University, Cornell University, and Informa Economics, eliminating the FMD and MAP programs would result in the value of U.S. agricultural exports dropping by an annual average of $14.7 billion.  Since eliminating the programs reduces government spending by about $250 million annually it is difficult to see the return on this cut – especially since the President needs as much economic growth as he can get.  The full budget only balances with 3 percent annual economic growth, despite current economic indicators pointing to a maximum of 2 percent growth into the next decade.

    The President’s budget also proposes extending budget sequestration for the period of FY2025-2027 ($911 million).  Note that cuts to agriculture accounted for 30 percent of total sequestration cuts in FY2016 so these cuts would fall disproportionately upon agriculture.
     
    The President’s budget makes no attempt to hide its low view, or misunderstanding, of agriculture programs, saying, “[t]he 2018 President's Budget targets commodity assistance, crop insurance subsidies, and conservation assistance to producers that have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $500,000 or less.  It is hard to justify to hardworking taxpayers why the Federal government should provide assistance to wealthy farmers with incomes over a half a million dollars.  Doing so undermines the credibility and purpose of farm programs.  The Budget also eliminates funding for a number of programs for which there is no Federal purpose, those programs include the Market Access Program [and] the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program…In a time of belt tightening, the Government should not be subsidizing the advertising and promotion of commodities…Lastly, the Budget targets conservation funding to the most sensitive agricultural land, by maintaining acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program at the current statutory cap of 24 million acres, eliminating distortionary signing and practice incentive payments, and focusing near-term enrollment on higher-value continuous acreage.”
     
    The budget has not been well received by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, many of whom characterized the proposal as “dead on arrival.”
     
    “President Trump’s budget proposal finally addresses our growing national debt while still prioritizing our armed forces, which currently face a readiness crisis after years of neglect,” said Representative Rick Crawford from Arkansas’ First District, the largest rice producing district in the country.  “However, the severe cuts to USDA programs don’t fully consider the current state of rural economies and the significant savings already generated by the last Farm Bill.  As the House of Representatives builds upon the Administration’s budget blueprint, I will work with my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee to advocate for producers and other programs vitally important to rural economies and a safe, reliable food source in the United States.”  

    The Chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, Representative Mike Conaway and Senator Pat Roberts released a joint statement saying, “As we debate the budget and the next Farm Bill, we will fight to ensure farmers have a strong safety net so this key segment of our economy can weather current hard times and continue to provide all Americans with safe, affordable food.”
     
    “The proposal is disappointing considering the level of support President Trump received from the parts of the country his budget is hurting most,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “If these cuts were ever enacted, they would devastate rural America and our farmers.  But the President does like to negotiate, so I guess this is his opening offer.  He won’t be surprised we’re rejecting it.”
  • Disaster Aid Available through FSA Program

    by Michael Klein | May 19, 2017
    GA.w-Disaster-Aid-via-ECP-170519Lawrence County, AR earlier this month 

    WASHINGTON, DC -- The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) helps farmers repair damage to farmlands caused by natural disasters by offering financial assistance.  Eligible practices that could be beneficial to many in flooded areas include debris removal from farmland, and grading, shaping, or leveling land.

    To determine if you qualify for assistance, contact your local FSA office as soon as possible. Eligibility may require field inspections before any work is done.

    Go here for more information about the program. 

  • USDA RMA Promotes Practical to Replant Guidance Document

    by Michael Klein | May 19, 2017
    guidanceimage

    WASHINGTON, DC - In light of recent severe flooding in the mid-South and parts of Louisiana, many growers have questions about Practical to Replant provisions.  USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) is offering guidance in an attempt to clarify the rules and regulations.

    As always, growers should work with their specific agents and consultants to ensure their specific circumstances are being addressed.

    Here is a link to the RMA guidance document.

  • Secretary Perdue Talks Trade, Farm Bill, and More with USA Rice

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 16, 2017
    Frank discussion with Secretary Perdue (center)
    Secretary-Perdue-Talks-with-USA-Rice
    WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue met with a delegation from USA Rice today in a wide-ranging discussion of industry priorities including trade, flooding in the mid-south, the upcoming Farm Bill, labor shortages in California, food aid, and the importance of rice research programs.

    “With 50 percent of our crop exported each year, and 20 percent of that going to Mexico, we can’t overstate the importance of the North American Free Trade Agreement,” USA Rice Chairman Brian King told the Secretary at the start of the meeting.

    Keith Glover, chairman of USA Rice’s World Market Price Subcommittee, continued the trade theme, reminding the Secretary about the lack of progress on signing the U.S.-China Phytosanitary Agreement for rice and the refusal of Iraq to purchase U.S. rice for the last year, despite a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and the government of Iraq.

    “The message we gave the President on NAFTA was clear, ‘don’t go backwards,’” the Secretary said.  “On China, we don’t have any disagreements on the phytosanitary deal, it’s just going to be a question of putting our names on the dotted lines.”

    The Secretary told the group that moving China forward on rice was definitely on his radar.

    On the issue of Iraq, Perdue offered that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, “with the full U.S. economy in his portfolio, has sunk his teeth into agriculture because he understands how much ag helps with our trade surplus.”

    Missouri rice farmer Paul T. Combs discussed food aid saying, “USDA food aid programs are quite important to the rice industry, and we believe food aid should be food, not cash, which can more easily be corrupted.”

    Curtis Berry, a Mississippi rice farmer, stressed the importance of the rice industry’s partnership with the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) to promote U.S. rice around the world.

    “Those promotion programs are very important to the rice industry, and we match every dollar we receive from the government with more than seven dollars from industry, so you can see we value the programs and believe in them,” Berry said.

    Sean Doherty, a California rice farmer, shared his concerns about labor shortages in California as a result of rhetoric coming out of the White House and also made the case for improved access to the Japanese market for U.S. rice.

    Also on the domestic front, Arkansas rice farmer Dow Brantley thanked Secretary Perdue for his recent trip to Arkansas to survey flood damage and reminded him about difficulties with the “practical to replant” regulations and used it as an opportunity to share rice priorities for the upcoming Farm Bill, including a safety net provision that works for rice, as the current Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program does, and a closer look at current policies that do not work, including the Actively Engaged provision.

    “Really important, I think, is to give farmers an opportunity to adjust to any rule changes in the new Farm Bill, we didn’t get that last time and it hurt a lot of people,” Brantley said.

    Texas rice farmer L.G. Raun talked about the exceptional conservation story the rice industry has to tell as the providers of so much habitat.  He praised the work of USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, stewards of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program of which the rice industry is a major beneficiary, and reminded the Secretary of the unique relationship between USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited that works to preserve habitat and improve water quality.

    Louisiana rice farmer Jackie Loewer also praised robust rice research programs that are helping the rice industry remain competitive.

    “All the issues you heard about today are important, but we really have a three-legged stool of trade, safety net programs, and research on which we sit,” said Loewer, who is also the chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board.

    “This could not have been a better meeting,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “It was apparent to all of us that Secretary Perdue is going to be a strong advocate for all of agriculture, but that he also understands the unique challenges confronting the rice industry and he is going to work with us, both domestically and internationally, to improve conditions for us.” 
  • USDA Reorganization Matches Up with Rice Priorities

    by Michael Klein | May 12, 2017
    Secretary Perdue leading the way
    GA-USDA Reorganization Matches Up with Rice Priorities--170512

    Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced a reorganization of his agency that shows a clear emphasis on trade – a priority of this Administration’s – and a philosophical shift on policy priorities at the farm level – both of which are in line with USA Rice initiatives.

    Trade Up
    An Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs (TFAA) has finally been created; the position was included in the 2014 Farm Bill but never filled by Secretary Vilsack.  The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), that is vital to the rice industry, has been pulled away from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Risk Management Agency (RMA) and placed under the auspices of the new TFAA.

    FAS manages the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, that together provided USA Rice with more than $4 million this year to help develop U.S. rice markets and promote American-grown rice overseas.

    The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), also important for rice, remains under the Marketing and Regulatory programs Under Secretary at USDA, however as a means of facilitating communication among all agricultural trade components, the new TFAA will chair an inter-agency committee including FAS, APHIS, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).

    “U.S. agricultural exports have quadrupled over the past 40 years so it makes sense to have a component of USDA completely devoted to trade,” said Carl Brothers, chair of USA Rice’s International Trade Policy Committee.  “With 50 percent of the U.S. rice crop exported each year, export markets are hugely important to our industry, so seeing an Under Secretary dedicated to trade is quite encouraging.”

    Brothers explained that while tariffs and duties on U.S. goods remain a major obstacle and concern, non-tariff barriers have grown substantially over the past several decades and require the expertise of agencies such as APHIS to deal with foreign sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions.

    Home Front
    Perdue also announced his intention to create an Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, to include the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Realigning these domestically-oriented departments logically puts farm services, crop insurance, and conservation programs under one roof and recognizes that conservation programs, like the very successful Regional Conservation Partnership Program of which rice is a major benefactor, are the way of the future for farming and farm policy.

    Since the number of Under Secretaries the Department can have is limited by Congress, Perdue eliminated the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development and will have the agencies and functions dealing with this area report directly to ​him.

    “This reorganization has been a long time coming and is quite welcome,” said Brian King, Chairman of USA Rice. “It shows that this is an agency well-aligned with our priorities and I expect our already great working relationship will only improve as we look to help our industry with strong and growing foreign markets and domestic policies and programs that ensure our farmers can continue to feed their families and families around the world in a safe and sustainable manner.”

  • WASDE Report Released

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 10, 2017
    USDA
    WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. 2017/18 all rice production is forecast at 201 million cwt, down 23.1 million from the previous year, all on a large reduction in long grain acreage as indicated by the NASS Prospective Plantings survey issued March 31.  The forecast 2017/18 yields are based on long-term historical trends and are higher for long grain but slightly lower for combined medium- and short-grain.  Total 2017/18 rice supplies are forecast to decrease 7 percent from the previous year to 273.1 million cwt, primarily on the reduction in long grain.

    U.S. 2017/18 total use is projected at 235 million cwt, down 4 percent from last year with both domestic and residual use and exports projected lower.  Long-grain exports are projected at 76 million cwt, down 3 million from 2016/17 on reduced exportable supplies.  Combined medium- and short-grain exports are projected at 34 million cwt, down 1 million on increased export competition from Australia and Egypt.  All rice 2017/18 ending stocks are projected at 38.1 million cwt, down 21 percent from last year.  Long-grain stocks are projected at 20.7 million cwt, down 8 million from 2016/17, while combined medium- and short-grain are projected 2 million cwt lower at 14.6 million.  The 2017/18 all rice season-average farm price is projected at $10.70 to $11.70/cwt, up $0.80 from the previous year’s revised midpoint.

    Total 2017/18 global supplies are at 599.9 million tons, up 2.6 million from 2016/17, based on larger carry-in stocks.  World 2017/18 rice production is projected at 481.3 million tons, down fractionally from last year’s record output.  Total world rice consumption is projected at a record 480.1 million tons, up from the revised 2016/17 level of 478.7 million.  Global exports are projected at 42.2 million tons, up 800,000 from 2016/17.  Thailand and India are expected to be the leading rice exporters for 2017/18, both at 10 million tons. World 2017/18 ending stocks are projected at 119.8 million tons, up marginally from 2016/17.  China continues to hold the majority of global rice stocks as its growing production and large imports continue to outpace consumption.

    Read the full report here.
  • Changes to School Lunch Program Present Opportunity for Rice

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 04, 2017
    I'll trade ya
    Sonny-Perdue Visits School Lunch Room
    WASHINGTON, DC – This week, new Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation to give America’s schools more flexibility to make food choices that are both healthful and appealing to students.  The rice industry, already a major player in school lunch nutrition programs, can benefit thanks to high nutritional and taste standards.

    At the center of the policy shift for rice are new USDA exemptions, likely in the form of waivers to relax whole grain standards for schools struggling to serve 100 percent whole grains.  This opens the door for more white rice sales – still nutritious and cost effective but not a whole grain.  

    “I believe some districts will go back to using more white rice, but we plan to continue using 100 percent brown rice,” said Emily Hartman, the child nutrition purchasing coordinator at East Baton Rouge Public Schools in Louisiana.  

    “Whole grain brown rice has been a nutritional success and enjoys great acceptability in the K through 12 market,” said Gary Reifeiss of Producers Rice Mill, a supplier of parboiled brown rice to school foodservice programs around the country.  “Schools looking to maintain high nutritional standards that are having trouble with whole grain breads or pastas need look no further than U.S.-grown brown rice!”

    Hartman shared her local brown rice success story – in an area where white rice has been king for generations.  “We have been serving only brown rice in our district for approximately five years, and our students have accepted it and seem to like it.  Just last week we conducted a student survey on jambalaya made with 100 percent brown rice and jambalaya made with half brown rice and half white rice.  Most of our students preferred the jambalaya made with 100 percent brown rice so we plan to continue to offer all brown rice.”

    Food refusal, that leads to food waste, is a major problem for schools.  But as the rice industry continues to work with the school foodservice industry to perfect recipes and cooking techniques, the staple is seen as part of the solution, not the problem.

    “The waivers most requested in Kansas from the past two school years have been for macaroni in Mac & Cheese,” explained Cheryl Johnson, director of child nutrition & wellness with the Kansas State Department of Education.  “Students in Kansas are accepting and eating brown rice from my observation and we have not had any requests for a waiver from any school district in Kansas to use white rice to date – they are serving brown rice with good acceptance by students.”  

    Reifeiss believes continuing to work with the schools as they wade through shifting regulations and policies will be key.

    “USA Rice has a great relationship with the School Nutrition Association to help these dedicated men and women, who are feeding our children every day, develop exciting, delicious, and healthy meals,” he said.  “Brown rice is surely not the only answer, but it is a great one because it satisfies kids and nutrition requirements.”

    The School Nutrition Association welcomed the flexibility offered in the USDA announcement, saying in a press release, “while SNA supports preserving robust federal rules, the Association has continued to advocate for practical flexibility under federal nutrition standards to help ease menu planning challenges and appeal to diverse student tastes.”
  • 2017 Ag Census a Chance to Count New Farms and Farmers

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 18, 2017
    2017-Ag-Census-Logo
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census of Agriculture is designed to be a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.  For those that have participated in the census in the past, a survey will be mailed to you by the end of the year or can be completed online.  

    For producers who are new to farming or did not receive the Census of Agriculture in 2012, there is still time to sign up to participate in the 2017 Census of Agriculture.  Sign-up is open until June 30, 2017, and more information can be found here.
  • WASDE Report Released

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 11, 2017
    USDA
    WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. rice ending stocks for 2016/17 are lowered 3 million cwt on increased exports; at 49.1 million cwt, these would still be the largest all rice ending stocks since 1986/87. The 3-million-cwt export increase is all rough rice, which is record large at 46 million cwt, but split with 2 million for long-grain and 1 million for medium- and short-grain.

    Global 2016/17 rice supplies are raised 800,000 tons on increased production. The primary increase is 600,000 tons for Indonesia on favorable weather. The Pakistan crop is raised 200,000 tons, while Burma production is lowered 100,000 tons. Global consumption is raised 400,000 tons led by a 300,000-ton increase for Indonesia reflecting the larger crop. Global imports are adjusted lower with cuts to Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Exports are lowered slightly with reductions for Egypt and Pakistan offsetting the increase for the United States. With supplies rising faster than total use, global ending stocks are increased 400,000 tons to 118.1 million, the largest since 2001/02.

    Read the full report here.
  • Farm Bill Opinions a Mixed Bag at Event

    by Michael Klein | Apr 03, 2017
    No need for name calling
    GA-Farm Bill Opinions a Mixed Bag at Event-170331

    WASHINGTON, DC – While most of Washington’s agriculture organizations and their memberships throughout rural America are optimistic about farm policy, the future of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the outlook of a strong safety net in the 2018 Farm Bill, recent gatherings here indicate that a resistance effort is brewing.

    American University’s School of International Service hosted a day-long conference, “Farm Bill 2018: Policy, Politics, and Potential” earlier this week to highlight some of the lesser-seen angles surrounding the farm bill. Speakers included a broad range of academics, civil society leaders, producers, policy makers, and the general public on relevant research and rising issues for the next farm bill.

    Kathleen Merrigan, former Deputy Secretary for USDA, drew attention to the agricultural dissenters during her opening remarks that kicked-off the conference. Merrigan encouraged those in attendance not to prejudge USDA Secretary-Designate Perdue. “I am troubled to see the 39,000 signatures on MoveOn.org requesting Senators to vote “nay” on Sonny Perdue,” she said.

    Merrigan added, “If we wish to get anything accomplished in the next farm bill, it is important that those of us in the agriculture industry strive for some level of unity and understanding amongst one another in order to get a [farm bill] written and passed in a timely manner.”

    Topics ranging from the Commodity Title through the Nutrition, Credit, and Research Titles were addressed. Panelists discussing commodity and credit programs laid out what they believed would be the key drivers for changes within the 2018 Farm Bill.

    Carl Zulauf a professor emeritus in agricultural economics at The Ohio State University and contributor to the
    Farmdoc Daily blog said, “I believe commodity prices, 2017 crop revenues, the state of U.S. exports, the federal budget, and President Trump’s agenda will be the determining factors for the next farm bill.”

    Another somewhat contentious panel focused on international trade. “Land grant universities have shifted their focus from farmers and have invested their resources into large companies that supply inputs of production,” claimed Gerardo Otero of Simon Fraser University. “This kind of research in biotechnology has led to global surpluses and now farmers are facing a qualitative issue rather than a quantitative issue. Farmers are producing too many calories and too little nutrition which is causing obesity in developing countries, furthering their struggles to keep up with the modernized world.”

    There was no shortage of opposing viewpoints but ultimately the panels agreed that a unified front will be required to move a strong farm bill forward in 2018.

  • USDA Estimates Rice Acreage Down 17 Percent

    by Michael Klein | Mar 31, 2017

    Can you check again?
    COMM-USDA Estimates Rice Acreage Down 17 Percent-170331

    WASHINGTON, DC - Area planted for rice in 2017 is expected to total 2.62 million acres, 524,000 less than in 2016, and back at the level planted in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service's Prospective Plantings report released today.  Planted acreage is forecast significantly lower for four of the six major rice-producing states with California almost unchanged at 539,000 acres and Louisiana down just eight percent to 400,000 acres.  Mississippi, which saw the largest percentage increase in 2016 (47 percent), will see the largest percentage decrease this year, down 38 percent to 120,000 acres.

    Long-grain, representing 73 percent of the total rice acreage, is expected to be 533,000 acres less than last year, with 360,000 of those acres being lost in Arkansas, the top rice producing state.  Medium-grain, now 25 percent of the total rice acreage, is projected to be up 1,000 acres to 666,000 - 72 percent of which is in California.  Area planted for all short-grain varieties, representing just two percent of production, is anticipated to be up 19 percent from last year's total.

    USA Rice Farmers Chairman and Missouri farmer Blake Gerard said, "With weak prices and uncertainty in our overseas markets, this dip in planting intentions is not very surprising. Here in Missouri, planting intentions are still somewhat in flux, but very soon the market and weather conditions are going to help solidify our decisions for the coming year."

    The USDA report is based on information supplied to USDA by growers, and though generally accurate within 5 percent, actual planted acres could vary.  The Rice Acreage Report, based on actual planted acres, will be published at the end of June.

  • It’s a ‘Sonny’ Day for the USDA: Perdue Quells Ag’s Nerves in Confirmation Hearing

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 23, 2017
    That tie works
    Perdue Confirmation Hearing
    WASHINGTON, DC – This morning the agriculture industry anxiously watched as former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue was questioned for more than two hours by Members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry seeking his confirmation as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

    Perdue was the last Cabinet nomination announced by President Trump in January and is the last of the Cabinet nominees to come before their jurisdictional committee in the Senate, but likely not the last to be confirmed.  

    U.S. agriculture has been nervous about the future of the USDA and agriculture programs since the President’s “skinny budget” proposal was released last week with 21 percent of discretionary funding slashed for FY 2018.  Much of today’s hearing focused on assurances that Perdue will defend the USDA’s funding and protect programs with strong, successful track records, including conservation programs.

    In his opening testimony, Perdue said, “American agricultural bounty comes directly from the land.  And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe.  My father’s words still ring in my ears, ‘Son, if you take care of the land, it will take care of you.  Owned or rented, we’re all stewards, and our responsibility is to leave it better than we found it.’  Should I be confirmed as Secretary of Agriculture, we will safeguard that trust, maintaining always our responsibility as good stewards.  That means supporting private landowners in their conservation efforts and managing the natural resources entrusted directly to the Department.”

    Senator John Boozman (R-AR) was quick to point out the role agriculture plays in his state along with the importance of opening new markets.  “In Arkansas, Cuba would be a very important market with rice production and various other things,” he stated.

    Boozman asked, “Can you talk a little bit about efforts that you would take [to open] other markets throughout the world?”

    Perdue shared his support for opening agricultural markets, saying, “Specific to Cuba…I think we would love to have Cuba as a customer.”  Following a 2010 trip to Cuba he found “as much of the problem there regarding demand was the ability to pay and the ability to finance.  They are certainly appropriate customers for the rice Louisiana grows and Arkansas grows.”

    Recognizing the ball is in Congress’ court, he indicated, “I would support their efforts if we could get private financing.”

    Longtime Committee Member, rice-state Senator, and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Thad Cochran (R-MS) added, “I’m confident that you’re going to do a fine job and we look forward to working closely with you to identify problems when they arise.”

    The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will still need to meet, likely next week, to vote to advance Perdue to the full Senate for consideration.  USA Rice joined more than 650 other agriculture organizations last month in a letter endorsing the swift confirmation of Governor Perdue as the 31st Secretary of Agriculture.
  • WASDE Report Released

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 09, 2017
    USDA
    WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. 2016/17 rice supply and demand estimates are unchanged this month.  The all rice marketing year average price is also unchanged with the midpoint of the range at $10.50 per cwt.  Medium-and short-grain prices are raised slightly.

    Global rice production is minimally increased to 480.4 million tons with Brazil accounting for all of the increase.  World exports are modestly reduced as lower exports by Australia, India, and Vietnam are only partially offset by increases for Brazil and China.  Global use is fractionally raised this month, resulting in projected ending stocks declining to 117.7 million tons, which is still the highest level since 2001/02.

    Read the full report here.
  • USDA Outlook Forum Projects Lower Rice Plantings, Higher PLC Payments in 2017

    by Deborah Willenborg | Feb 24, 2017
    No surprise here
    USDA-Outlook-Forum
    ARLINGTON, VA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) kicked off their two-day annual Agricultural Outlook Forum here yesterday with highlights from industry experts and keynotes from House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Iowa’s Governor, Terry Branstad.

    One of the largest draws of the Forum are the economic projections for the U.S. agriculture industry provided by USDA’s Chief Economist Robert Johansson.

    Johansson shared that soybean acreage is expected to grow by about 5 million acres this year while corn drops about 4 million acres.  Prices are sharply favorable to soybeans right now, likely causing the shift in production.  Wheat production is expected to drop by 8.3 percent and cotton is expected to grow by 14.2 percent.  Rice projections by USDA take one of the most significant cuts at 17.4 percent, down to 2.6 million acres.

    The overall farm economy is expected to stay rather stagnant, the debt-to-asset ratio for farmers is projected to average 13.9 percent.  This ratio hit its historic high at 22.2 percent in 1985, “To reach that point today would still take a dramatic increase in debt payments or a loss in farmland value of more than 50 percent,” Johansson said.

    There was some lightness in Johansson’s remarks.  “Farm programs are working as designed. Given the rapid decline in agricultural sector profitability since 2013, we have seen farm programs providing a safety net to many producers.  Those programs have helped farmers adjust to lower commodity prices,” he said.  “PLC payments have totaled $1.9 billion for crop year 2015, with the largest shares going to rice, peanuts, and wheat base.”

    “We’re obviously not in a good place with regard to low rice prices and the corresponding lower plantings as projected by USDA,” said USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely.  “But overall, PLC has been working well for long grain rice growers and USDA agrees.”

    The U.S. Congressional Budget Office projections anticipate PLC’s 2016 crop year payments, to be made in November, to total $3.5 billion.

  • WASDE Report Released

    by Deborah Willenborg | Feb 09, 2017
    USDA
    WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. 2016/17 rice exports are lowered 2 million cwt to 110 million.  Long-grain milled exports account for the entire reduction and reflect the sales and shipment pace to date.  U.S. ending stocks are raised by an equal amount and are the highest since 1985/86.  The 2016/17 all rice season-average farm price range is raised $0.10 per cwt at the midpoint to $10.50. The long-grain, and the Other States medium- and short-grain season-average prices are both increased.

    Global rice supplies for 2016/17 are raised fractionally this month.  World exports are raised 500,000 tons led by increases for Thailand and India.  Global use is raised 800,000 tons resulting in an 800,000 ton reduction in the world ending stocks forecast.  Global ending stocks are projected to be the largest since 2001/02.

    Read the full report here.
  • Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to Head Trump’s USDA

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 19, 2017
    Ag nominee Sonny Perdue
    Sonny-Perdue-with-mics
    WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President-Elect Trump’s Transition Team officially announced the nomination of former Georgia Governor George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

    Perdue was born and raised on a row crop farm in Perry, Georgia, and later played football for the University of Georgia before earning his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  Throughout his career he has started several small agribusinesses in addition to serving as the 81st Governor of Georgia from 2003-2011.

    Perdue was selected from a vast pool of more than two dozen possible candidates and was President-Elect Trump’s final Cabinet position to be announced, just one day ahead of his inauguration.

    Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs and also a native son of Georgia, said, “I’ve worked with Governor Perdue and his staff in the past and cannot say enough good things about his leadership abilities.  We’re truly optimistic and energized to get the opportunity to work with the Governor in his anticipated role as our Secretary of Agriculture. “

    Mosely added, “It’s even more comforting knowing that Governor Perdue and his incoming staff within the Department will have firsthand experience with Southern agriculture and the unique growing conditions and marketing challenges for crops like rice, cotton, and peanuts.  We’ll be well-served with a Department that understands the need for a farm safety net that includes price protection, especially when we’re crafting and implementing the next Farm Bill.”

    Former Governor Perdue also shares close ties to the U.S. Senate where his first cousin, Senator David Perdue (R-GA), sits on the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.
  • Rice, Ducks, and Friends Awarded $15 Million in 2017 RCPP Funding

    by Michael Klein | Dec 21, 2016
    Planning on putting it to good use
    GA-Rice, Ducks, and Friends Take a $X Million-Sweep of 2017 RCPP Funding-161221

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the list of 80+ projects to be funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for 2017.

    USA Rice, through its USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership, was awarded funding for two projects bringing $15 million to the Mid-South and Gulf Coast’s rice-growing regions. The NRCS funds, along with $15+ million in financial and in-kind support of 45 companies and organizations, will help producers implement a variety of conservation practices on their operations through the NRCS-led Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and supplement a reservoir construction for irrigation water in Texas.

    USA Rice took the lead for the Mid-South Graduated Water Stewardship Program, which was awarded $7 million to be used for rice-specific EQIP and CSP contracts in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Central and Northeast Louisiana. The second project, is led by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), and was awarded $8 million to supplement the building of a conservation reservoir in Eagle Lake, Texas to provide water for irrigation and flooded water bird habitat across 50,000 acres of ricelands and includes a small amount set aside for CSP contracts for Texas rice farmers.

    USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited currently deploy more than 15 field staff to work on rice conservation projects, namely the implementation of the 2015 RCPP project, Sustaining the Future of Rice, across all six major rice-growing states. The Partnership is in the process of completing the $10 million-project with hundreds of rice farmers expected to sign EQIP and CSP contracts throughout the three-year life of its funding.

    Louisiana rice farmer and co-chair of the Rice Stewardship Partnership, Jeff Durand, shared his obvious excitement about the announcement, “The notification that our proposals were awarded is just thrilling, the news of this funding could really not have come at a better time,” he emphasized. “As producers we’re dealing with an ongoing streak of low commodity prices and luckily, the wide suite of practices available through EQIP and CSP will, in most cases, improve our bottom lines and add to our overall sustainability as an industry.”

    USA Rice President and CEO, Betsy Ward, was equally pleased, “We’re proud of our continued, strong relationship with Ducks Unlimited, LCRA, and NRCS as well as our many other contributing partners on these RCPP projects,” she said.

    These sentiments were echoed by outgoing NRCS Chief Jason Weller at the USA Rice Outlook Conference earlier this month when he said, “I am so proud of the partnership NRCS has with the rice industry…for your commitment to being partners with us to invest in conservation and really be national leaders in production agriculture….I commend the rice industry for your leadership and your partnership through our programs and standing up for what’s right for farmers, for families, for rural communities, but also what’s right for American conservation.”

    “Rice and ducks have a unique relationship, they play vital roles in the ecosystems throughout the U.S. and we fully embrace the motto ‘what’s good for rice is good for ducks.’ And so it comes as no surprise to us that our Partnership’s proven success will be bringing record levels of conservation funding solely to rice farmers over the next couple of years as the projects are implemented,” Ward added.

    The success of the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership would not be possible without the help from financial and in-kind partners. Rice Stewardship financial contributors include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Walmart Foundation, the Mosaic Company Foundation, Chevron U.S.A., Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, RiceTec, BASF, American Rice, Inc. - Riviana Foods, Inc., Delta Plastics, Wells Fargo, Farmers Rice Milling Company, Horizon Ag, Turner's Creek & Bombay Hook Farms, MacDon Industries, Dow AgroSciences, and other major Ducks Unlimited sponsors.

  • Calling All Farmers: NASS Surveys Need Your Input

    by Deborah Willenborg | Dec 01, 2016
    L.G. Raun and USA Rice's Ben Mosely
    inspect the crop
    NASS-Surveys-Need-Input,-LG-Raun-& Mosely
    WASHINGTON, DC -- USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently distributed two surveys to the majority of rice producers that have a big impact on farm safety net assistance levels.

    The County Agricultural Production Survey (CAPS) was sent out to nearly every farm through their respective states and asks for planted acres, area harvested for grain, and quantity harvested.  This survey is used across the Risk Management Agency, Farm Service Agency, and university research to determine production and economic values on a per county basis.  The CAPS is open through early January and will be published on March 9, 2017.

    L.G. Raun, a Texas rice farmer and member of the USA Rice World Market Price Subcommittee, said, “The County Ag Production Survey is particularly important for us to complete as rice farmers since the data is used to determine formulas for posted county prices, disaster assistance programs, county loan rates, and our vital farm safety net programs like ARC and PLC.  I really encourage growers to complete all surveys sent out by NASS because without enough accurate responses we’re at the mercy of the limited surveys actually submitted.  Surveys that incorporate planting estimates, price reporting, and yields all play a role in the direction of the futures markets, food prices, farm policy, and more.”

    Another survey, the Agricultural Survey for December, was sent to a smaller sample of growers but requires responses by December 13.  This survey gathers data on acres planted, acres harvested, yield per acre, and quantity stored.  Conducted quarterly in all states, this survey is used by commodity markets, university researchers, and farm operators for market assessment, planning, and decision making.

    USA Rice encourages farmers receiving NASS surveys to complete and return them within the deadline to ensure accurate data is used across USDA’s various agencies and to reduce variations and discrepancies among counties and state data.  If you do not receive NASS surveys and would like to be counted in the future, visit the NASS farm survey enrollment page.

  • Prevented Planting Update Good for Rice

    by Michael Klein | Nov 23, 2016
    Not that kind of prevent

    GA-Prevented Planting Update Good for Rice-161123

    WASHINGTON, DC -- Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced changes to the agency’s prevented planting rules.  Among the changes, RMA included updated factors for prevented planting coverage for a number of crops, including rice.

    Prevented planting coverage provides farmers with protection if they are unable to plant an insured crop due to adverse weather conditions.  Prevented planting coverage is a useful risk management tool for rice farmers due to the wide variability of precipitation and water availability in rice producing areas.  Prevented planting indemnities help growers by covering a portion of those pre-planting costs generally incurred in preparation for planting the crop. Such as fertilizer, actions taken to ready the field, pesticide, labor, and repairs. The prevented planting factor, which RMA updated, is a percentage of the individual insurance guarantee and varies by crop, and is based on an estimate of pre-planting costs.

    Among the changes is a positive change from a rice farmer’s perspective.  Currently, if rice acreage is prevented from planting the guarantee under insurance is equal to 45 percent of the normal indemnity to account for fewer input costs.  However, under yesterday’s announcement, beginning with the 2017 crop year, the rice prevent planting guarantee will actually increase to 55 percent of the normal indemnity.  This change is to ensure that rice farmers are more properly indemnified for losses associated with a prevent planting situation.

    “We are still absorbing all of the changes but this particular change is positive for rice and worth highlighting,” said Ben Mosely USA Rice vice president of government affairs.

    Mosely said the updates were required to address the recommendations in an Office of the Inspector General’s 2013 report: RMA Controls Over Prevented Planting.  That report led to RMA commissioning a third-party evaluation of prevented planting coverage, which provided recommendations for determining prevented planting factors.

    “USA Rice submitted comments on the recommendations last year supporting more accurately quantifying rice’s coverage factors,” Mosely said.  “We’re pleased with the update.”

  • WASDE Report Released

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 09, 2016
    USDA
    WASHINGTON, DC -- The 2016/17 U.S. rice crop is reduced 1.2 million cwt to 234.8 million on lower yields.  Ending stocks are lowered by the same amount.  The average yield forecast is reduced 39 pounds per acre to 7,493.  Arkansas and Missouri were the only states to have reductions.  The long-grain crop is reduced 900,000 cwt to 176.1 million but still the largest since the 2010/11 record.  Medium- and short-grain production is down 300,000 cwt to 58.7 million.  Total exports are unchanged, but rough exports are raised 1 million cwt, which is offset by a 1-million-cwt reduction in milled exports.  The all rice marketing year average price received by producers is lowered $0.10 per cwt at the midpoint to a range of $10.10 to $11.10 on lower Southern medium-grain prices.

    Global rice supplies for 2016/17 are raised 1.3 million tons on a 500,000-ton increase in production and higher beginning stocks.  The increased beginning stocks are largely on reduced 2015/16 Indian domestic use.  Trade for 2016/17 is cut 200,000 tons and domestic use is up 200,000 tons.  With supplies rising faster than total use, world ending stocks are raised 1 million tons.

    Read the full report here.