J. Paul “Jackie” Loewer, vice chairman of the USA Rice Federation and chairman of the U.S. Rice Producers' Group joined the American Farm Bureau Federation and other leaders of production agriculture in calling for meaningful improvements in market access at the upcoming WTO ministerial meeting in Mexico.

“Any agreement by U.S. trade negotiators to reduce the safety net of U.S. farm programs must be accompanied by concrete and enforceable reductions in foreign tariffs and other barriers to U.S. rice. Hard working U.S. producers must not be made to bear the brunt of any U.S. concessions.” according to Loewer.

Loewer noted during a joint press conference in Washington, D.C., that the USA Rice Federation is a strong supporter of free trade. “The U.S. rice market is open to the world. In any year, one half of U.S. rice production is exported as fully milled, brown, or rough rice, and U.S. consumers purchase about 10 percent of their rice consumption from overseas suppliers.”

“The U.S. rice industry is also proud of the key role of U.S. rice in helping to guarantee global food security through the U.S. government's food aid policies, Loewer continued.

“Unfortunately, international trade agreements have not kept up with the reality of today's rice market. In key foreign market after market, U.S. rice faces tariff and non-tariff barriers. U.S. support programs have become, as a result, an indispensable safety net,” according to Loewer.

“As trade ministers meet in Cancun, Mexico, the future of U.S. agriculture is at risk. While unhindered trade is the goal, the benefits of the existing U.S. agricultural safety net are too important to compromise away without real gains on market access, disciplines on trade-distorting domestic supports,” he said.