By Carrie Castille, USA Rice
YOUNGSVILLE, LA – Last week, U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, hosted a field hearing here entitled "Growing Opportunities for Business and Small Farmers in Acadiana" that focused on the challenges facing Louisiana's small business owners and farmers.
Panelists included representatives from Louisiana's rice, sugar, and shrimp industries. Federal agencies that have oversight in these areas also participated in the hearing, including Joseph Laroski of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of the Secretary for International Trade, who emphasized the partnership with USA Rice to help enforce free trade agreements.
Bill Dore, vice-president of sales for Supreme Rice Mill and member of the USA Rice Millers' Association, provided an overview of Louisiana's rice milling industry and proudly stated that "Supreme Rice is sold on every continent except Antarctica." His testimony focused on U.S. food aid, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance.
Dore also talked about the challenges the rice milling industry is facing due to tax and regulation policy. He said these policies "threaten our tax base and threaten the harmony of our social fabric." Kennedy responded that he wants to "fix the tax code and that it has not been changed since 1997."
When asked to identify positive changes the federal government could make to enhance the business climate, Dore replied there must be a level playing field in international trade and said, "If we are going to really move to free trade in this world, rice will really benefit. WTO has everything in place to get things done but has been unable to accomplish the most basic reforms in the face of gross violations."
Kennedy was curious to hear how burdensome government regulations affect local agriculture producers. He described the Environmental Protection Agency's Waters of the U.S. Rule, also known as WOTUS, as an example of an overly burdensome regulation and said that the rule "is a perfect example of the government gone crazy."
Jackie Loewer, a rice farmer from Acadia Parish attended the hearing and said he was "glad Senator Kennedy recognized the role that Louisiana's rice growers and rice millers play in small business development" and hopes that the recommendations gathered from the hearing "will ultimately be implemented in Washington, DC."