By Deborah Willenborg, USA Rice
JONESBORO, AR; CLEVELAND, MS; BUNKIE and JENNINGS, LA -- As the 2018 planting season approaches, rice state meetings are in full swing and USA Rice is on the road listening to growers and sharing planned activities and success stories.
The jam-packed schedule included stops on Monday at the Arkansas Rice Council and Arkansas Rice Farmers annual meeting, Tuesday at the Mississippi Rice Council annual meeting and Mississippi Rice Research and Promotion Board meeting, and yesterday at the Central Louisiana Rice Growers meeting and the Louisiana Rice Council and Rice Growers Association annual joint meeting.
At each stop on the road tour, USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward thanked attendees for their support for USA Rice and reminded them of their state volunteer representatives in the member-driven organization. She also gave an industry update that focused on international trade including the renegotiation of NAFTA, a report on current export markets, and what USA Rice is doing to combat unfair competition in global markets. She also talked about the continued success of the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership and how that effort has generated financial assistance of more than $75 million specifically for rice farmers to support implementation of conservation practices.
Ben Mosely, vice president of government affairs for USA Rice, showcased the organization's legislative advocacy efforts as he reported on last week's successful Government Affairs Conference (see USA Rice Daily, February 16, 2018) and shared his perspective on the coming Farm Bill and rice priorities.
USA Rice Vice President of Marketing, Communications & Domestic Promotion Michael Klein discussed the challenges of telling the rice story using social media and partnering with important influencers and other supporters who help amplify the rice message.
Several videos were shared with the crowds, including a Nestlé Purina/USA Rice/DU video about sustainable rice farming in Mississippi and Arkansas, a National Rice Month Video Scholarship winner, highlights from Arkansas rice farmer Eric Vaught's appearance on celebrity TV chef Sara Moulton's cooking show, Sara's Weeknight Meals, and USA Rice videos showcasing Louisiana's annual Yellow Rails & Rice Festival and the group's Foodservice Farm & Mill tours.
Other speakers at the Louisiana annual meeting included Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser and Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain. Also at the meeting, long time USA Rice employee Randy Jemison was presented with the Distinguished Service Award and rice farmer Kevin Berken was honored for his many years as chairman of the Louisiana Rice Political Action Committee.
"We are a member driven organization and though the focus of much of our work is in Washington, DC, it is vital we stay in close contact with what is happening in rice country - these tours are an important part of that," said Ward.