Increasing U.S.-grown rice consumption by Americans is a primary goal of the USA Rice Federation's (USA Rice) domestic promotion program. I'm pleased to share this update, which covers just a few ongoing domestic promotion activities.

National Rice Month (September) is fast approaching. This year's overall theme is “America's going with the grain,” which helps convey the popularity of rice to consumers. NRM collateral materials and advertising for retail and foodservice will feature “Rice, you'll love what it does for you!”

The message is that retailers and foodservice operators will benefit from the promotion of rice through greater profitability, higher sales and increased traffic.

Our ad campaign began the first week of June with placements in leading supermarket trade magazines, and continues through August. The ads encourage participation in NRM, while raising awareness for the entire rice category. This cost-effectivity reaches important decision makers.

Each year, USA Rice establishes cooperative promotional programs with three of the nation's leading retailers. We leverage promotional funds by requiring retailers to advertise their branded and private-label rice products during September and to feature rice in off-shelf displays in the majority of their stores.

H-E-B Grocery, one of the nation's largest retailers with $9 billion in annual sales and more than 290 stores in Texas and Louisiana, and a small number in Mexico, is partnering with USA Rice for the third year in a row. The chain plans 30 scheduled ads for a combined circulation of 102 million and 2,380 rice displays for 295 stores. (More than 6,000 retail stores set NRM displays in 2001.)

Consumers will be able to sample rice recipes at 600 in-store demonstrations. In addition, numerous USA Rice members throughout the rice-growing states are involved in grassroots efforts to promote rice in their communities.

This educates consumers about the many benefits of rice while increasing awareness of the importance of rice to our local economies. Comprehensive planning kits were distributed in June.

School Foodservice/Youth Promotions

USA Rice staffed a display booth at the Louisiana School Food Service Association Conference in mid-June. Nearly 1,000 school foodservice personnel attended. Visitors received rice foodservice recipes and bilingual rice preparation charts.

They also were encouraged to enter our “Kid's Favorite” recipe contest, which solicits kid-pleasing recipes featuring rice for future distribution to school foodservice professionals.

High school juniors and seniors whose families are directly associated with the rice industry in the states of Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, are encouraged to enter the National Rice Month Scholarship Contest. Students compete by running a promotion that celebrates National Rice Month in their communities, with rice as the central theme.

Twelve cash prizes are awarded based on creativity, impact, promotion of rice and National Rice Month, and demonstration of the importance of the rice industry to the local area.

The annual Miss Arkansas Rice contest, jointly sponsored by the Arkansas Rice Council and USA Rice Council, has a 40-year tradition of encouraging rice promotion among youth and publicizing the importance of the state's rice industry.

Consumer Education Awards

This spring, USA Rice captured top honors for corporate consumer education and communication materials from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. With 4,000 members in 36 countries and all 50 states, the IACP is the largest organization of food experts in the world.

We submitted posters, recipe brochures and other materials designed to educate consumers about U.S.-grown rice.

USA Rice's “Risotto: Causing a Stir” press kit was recently selected as an outstanding example of business communications in the Bronze Quill Awards contest, sponsored by the International Association of Business Communicators.

Rice Outlook Conference

The 2002 USA Rice Outlook Conference, to be Dec. 8-10 in Little Rock, Ark., will be a great opportunity to visit with growers and others from all the rice-growing states, and learn about issues affecting the industry.

Joe Mencer, a Lake Village, Ark., rice producer, is a member of the USA Rice Federation's Domestic Promotion Committee. He is also president of the Arkansas Rice Council.