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Rice group leaders respond to article

On behalf of the USA Rice Council and our respective state memberships, we wish to address the comments of Mr. Dwight Ellis and Mr. John Alter as reported in the June 6 Delta Farm Press article by David Bennett on the Mexico anti-dumping issue.

Mr. Ellis and Mr. Alter allege that, in their opinions, promotion checkoff dollars were misused. We take our accountability very seriously. When we see it called into question as it was by Mr. Ellis and Mr. Alter in this article, we must respond.

First and foremost, there was extensive member discussion and due process on this issue. This is not a new story. In Arkansas, for example, the Arkansas Rice Council Board of Directors deliberated and voted to support the rice industry defense against the Mexican anti-dumping charges back in January of 2001. The Arkansas Rice Council is made up of 30 rice farmers, duly elected by farmers from all rice-growing districts in the state. At the USA Rice Council level, farmer board representatives from each of the member states, including Arkansas, participated in multiple discussions and votes on this issue. No actions were taken, nor expenditures made, without farmer oversight.

Mr. Ellis alleges that the expenses for the U.S. rice industry’s defense against the Mexican anti-dumping case were kept “under the radar.” In fact, there has been ongoing, open communication to rice farmers and the industry on the USA Rice Council’s actions and expenditures. The cost of the industry’s defense was even covered in a previous Delta Farm Press article (June 21, 2002) based on information the USA Rice Federation provided, so it has hardly been kept a secret as Mr. Ellis implies.

The Mexico anti-dumping case is about defending market access for U.S. rice in our number one export market. These are hard economic times for rice farmers, which is why the USA Rice Council, through due process, voted to defend access to a market that means more than 700,000 metric tons and $100 million a year to the U.S. rice industry. There’s something else to consider. Left unchallenged, the Mexican case potentially could have led to a ripple effect of contrived trade barriers in other markets. The industry cannot afford to let that happen.

It is always easier to give an opinion than it is to convey facts. We appreciate the space given in the article to Bob Cummings of the USA Rice Federation staff, who lays out the facts, background and current status of the issue. However, wrapped in the commentary of Mr. Ellis and Mr. Alter, the real story about protecting market access may be overshadowed.

Mr. Ellis and Mr. Alter have previously said they are affiliated with the U S Rice Producers Association. Yet it is hard to reconcile their statements in your article with those of that association in its June 5, 2002, news release “Rice Farmers Urge Reversal of Mexican Antidumping Duties,” which states “USRPA urges that all available forms of protest be utilized to overturn this generally incomprehensible decision.”

As rice farmers in leadership positions on the USA Rice Council, we are surprised none of us were contacted for this story. However, we know Farm Press strives for fair and balanced reporting and believe this was an unintended oversight. We appreciate this opportunity to comment.

Michael Rue

USA Rice Council Chairman

Jimmy Hoppe

Immediate Past Chairman, USA Rice Council

John King III

Arkansas Vice Chairman, USA Rice Council

Charley Mathews Jr.

California Vice Chairman, USA Rice Council

Clarence Berken

Louisiana Vice Chairman, USA Rice Council

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