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February 13, 2024
Ballots are in the mail for the regular referendum vote of the California Rice Commission. Growers and handlers have until March 6 to turn in their ballots to approve or deny their support for the commission.
The commission’s work is fully funded through a mandatory assessment split evenly between growers and handlers. That money supports all facets of the organization’s efforts, including staff and overhead, the commission’s rice pesticide monitoring and other regulatory programs, it’s top-shelf media and promotions efforts, and the organization’s fascinating work to protect fish and fowl.
Rice handlers and growers should have by now received their ballots. Over 1,300 ballots were mailed recently by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. If approved, the commission will continue its work for another five years, at which time a new referendum will be held.
The California Rice Commission is represented by elected members of the rice industry. It’s board is evenly divided between growers and rice handlers. Some of those members have gone on to be elected to leadership positions with USA Rice. Many also serve in various other roles within their local communities.
The California Rice Commission was established in California statute in 1998 to broaden industry participation and expand the activities of the California Rice Promotion Board. The promotion board was later dissolved after the rice commission elected its first board of directors.
Referendums like this are different than merely electing growers or handlers to a board of directors. Important as board elections are, those members come and go; electing to continue the commission’s activities cannot be taken lightly. From what I’ve seen and heard, the California Rice Commission continues to do great work on behalf of those in the industry.
California farmers regularly grow about 500,000 acres of rice – mostly medium grain with some specialty rice varieties – that is marketed around the world. Unlike the commodity rice produced in other parts of the U.S., this rice is sold to buyers who want the high quality varieties and products from rice produced in the state.
More than the rice, these growers have an acumen for environmental stewardship that enhances migratory bird populations along the Pacific Flyway, supports mammals and reptiles, and lately is helping rebuild endangered salmon populations in the Sacramento and Feather rivers. That philosophy is promoted well by commission staff and through the collaborations they’ve built with conservation groups.
In the event a ballot is not received, growers and handlers should contact Ben Kardokus with the California Department of Food and Agriculture at (916) 749-5473, or by email at [email protected].
Associate Editor, Western Farm Press
Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.
Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico.
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