Farmers urge food shipments

The Houston, Texas-based U.S. Rice Producers Association has asked President Bush to dramatically increase the amount of rice being shipped under U.S. food aid programs to help aid recipients, U.S. farmers and the rice milling industry.

In a letter to the president, Nolen Canon, chairman of the U.S. Rice Producers Association and a farmer from Tunica, Miss., said the increased rice shipments are needed to prevent a “catastrophe” in the rice industry.

“U.S. rice farmers and rice mills are suffering through a sixth year of unprecedented low prices,” Canon wrote. “The gravity of the situation is evidenced by the recent approval by the House of Representatives of a sorely needed economic assistance package for producers for the fourth consecutive year.

“At the same time, our rice milling industry is facing serious economic challenges, as evidenced by several mill closures and bankruptcies during the last year.”

Canon said rice farmers are urging the administration to dramatically expand direct donations of milled rice and more fully utilize PL 480 Food for Peace programs to move more U.S. rice in all of its forms.

“This two-pronged approach would provide U.S. mills with significant short-term assistance during this tumultuous year for the industry while building more markets for U.S. rice in the medium- to long-term,” he noted.

Addressing a concern expressed by some in the milling industry, Canon said, “Rice farmers are not indifferent to the problems facing small millers in some regions of the U.S. We know the vital role our mills play in the U.S. rice market, and we want to make sure that U.S. programs are utilized in a way that improves the financial situations for U.S. producers and millers alike.

“Pitting farmer against miller is a losing proposition for the entire industry, and we will do all we can to ensure that U.S. farmers and millers remain viable through this difficult period in the rice sector.”

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