Steven Linscombe | 9/18/2012 6:23:59 PM
Over 40 years ago very far-sighted Louisiana rice industry leaders understood the importance of research to improve rice production technology, as well as promotion of the commodity to improve marketing opportunities. Through legislative action, the rice research and rice promotion checkoff programs were established. While both of these programs have been tweaked through the years, their functions are the same as when they were first established – to provide funds to conduct research on rice and to promote the crop after harvest. The research checkoff program collects $.05/cwt., and the promotion program collects $.03/cwt. on all rice produced in Louisiana. Both of these programs are administered by a board made up of Louisiana rice producers. These boards are appointed by the governor from nominations submitted by statewide rice producer organizations. The Louisiana Rice Research Board is made up of 13 members while the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board consists of nine members. These members serve with no remuneration, and all of their services are totally voluntary.
The research board can fund any worthy research endeavor. However, a substantial amount of the research checkoff funds are provided to LSU AgCenter rice scientists because much of the research conducted by these individuals has immediate application to improvement in Louisiana production technology. Funded projects cover a broad range of research areas, such as variety development, genetics, weed control, disease control, insect control, physiology, agronomic practices, ratoon (second) crop production, economics, and several areas of post-harvest technology.
Research funded by this board has led to dramatic improvements in rice production technology. Average per acre yields have increased more than 50 percent since this board has been funding research. Much of this increase in yield is due to improved varieties that have greater yield potential under Louisiana climatic conditions. Other improvements have come from better weed, insect and disease control technology, much of which has been conducted in Louisiana under board-funded projects. These research scientists must continually adapt to new challenges. An example of this is the rice blast disease outbreak in southwest Louisiana in 2012. This was the most severe problem with this disease in many years and will necessitate improvement in resistance to this disease in some of our most popular varieties. Research such as this is expensive, and the availability as well as stability of funding plays a key role in the long-term productivity of this or any research endeavor. The Rice Research Board funds have been a stable source of money through the years and thus have helped many rice research programs deliver improved technology to the industry. This, in turn, helps keep our industry as competitive as possible.
Efforts provided through the promotion checkoff are critical for the industry as well. Most of the funded promotional activities are coordinated by the USA Rice Federation, which is the global advocate for all segments of the U.S. rice industry. Domestic promotion activities help drive market demand for U.S. grown rice in consumer, food service, and retail channels. Nutrition research documenting the human health benefits of rice support the industry’s food policy efforts, which have led to an FDA whole-grain health claim for brown rice, positive positioning for rice in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the inclusion of brown rice in USDA’s WIC program, and the USDA MyPlate strategic partnership, which emphasizes how rice, as a whole-grain, fits with USDA’s “make half your grains whole” messaging. In addition, the Grown in the USA logo helps consumers and chefs identify and purchase U.S.-grown rice. Eighty percent of rice consumed in the United States is now domestically grown.
Since approximately half of the U.S. crop is exported, similar efforts are also essential in international promotion. These include efforts in several different areas. Favorable trade policy is important to gain meaningful access to markets through trade negotiations. Substantial work is done in the area of bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations, and these efforts are closely aligned with the USDA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and others to accomplish a favorable trade environment. Food aid seeks to alleviate human suffering. More recently with efforts by private voluntary organizations to monetize food aid, it has become an initial market entry/development tool in many countries. Recently, there has been a great deal of activity with private voluntary organizations, such as the USDA, the USAID and others, to maximize the opportunity for U.S-grown rice in food aid. In addition, export promotion broadens trade channels through relationship building as well as building lasting preference through marketing activities. Government intervention in the global rice market is widespread and substantial as are barriers to U.S. rice exports. Removing current and future market access barriers is a top priority for these programs.
Both the research and promotion efforts are essential for the long-term viability of the Louisiana rice industry. These checkoff funds are definitely money well spent.
Permission granted September 15, 2012 by B. Leonards (LA Farm & Ranch) to republish article on www.lsuagcenter.com.