Washington, DC Update

On June 23, 2021, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Homer Wilkes for Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Homer Wilkes, a native of Port Gibson, Mississippi, currently serves as Director of Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Team. He is one of the five Federal Executive Council members to oversee the rebuilding of the Ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Oil Spill of 2010. He served as the Acting Associate Chief of USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Washington during the period of 2010 to 2012. Dr. Wilkes' tenure with the United States Department of Agriculture spans over 41 years. During his tenure he has served as State Conservationist for Mississippi; Chief Financial Officer for NRCS in Washington, DC; Deputy State Conservationist for Mississippi; and Chief of Administrative Staff for the South Technical Center for NRCS in Fort Worth, Texas.

Dr. Wilkes also served as Naval Supply Officer in the United States Navy Reserves from November 1984 to April 2007. Dr. Wilkes received his Bachelors, Master of Business Administration, and Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education from Jackson State University. He also successfully completed the USDA Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SES CDP) through American University’s Key Executive Leadership Certificate in Public Policy. Dr. Wilkes and his wife Kim, currently reside in Ridgeland, MS. They have three sons, Justin, Austin, and Harrison. He enjoys fishing, restoring antique vehicles, and family activities.

Xochitl Torres Small

On June 18, 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Xochitl Torres Small for Under Secretary of Rural Development, Department of Agriculture. Xochitl Torres Small is the granddaughter of migrant farmworkers and grew up in the borderlands of New Mexico. In 2008, she came home from college to work as a field organizer, working in neighborhoods known as colonias, in southern New Mexico. She served as a field representative for New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall, where she collaborated with local grassroots leaders, business owners, elected officials, and regional and state economic development officials to help communities access American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Torres Small studied water law and has worked closely with rural water utilities. In 2018, Torres Small became the first woman and first person of color to represent New Mexico’s second congressional district, the largest district that isn’t its own state. Torres Small served as the U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district in the 116th Congress. Torres Small was defeated in 2020 by Yvette Herrell.

Ralston Family Farms is America's Rice

Nestled in the beautiful Arkansas River Valley, some 65 miles northwest of Little Rock, is a rice farm far away from the beaten path of the traditional Arkansas Delta rice-farming region. A multi-generational family farm, Tim and Robin Ralston are carving their place in America’s rice industry as they grow, harvest and mill both traditional and aromatic varieties. Rice at Ralston Family Farms is a quality consumer product, not a commodity as evidenced by their successful marketing efforts to numerous retailers and supermarkets. These efforts are due to their mission: to provide the best tasting and highest quality rice available through sustainable farming practices that improve the land while giving back to help end the fight against food security across the United States.

A growing preference among consumers is Ralston’s system to grow sustainably for future generations and be good stewards of the land, a practice that has always been important to the family. Ralston Family Farms not only produces their own seed, farms, harvests, and mills their rice, they also brand it in patented, recyclable packaging with an easy pour spout. The revolutionary, eco-friendly packaging is completely unique to the market.

Ralston Family Farms' unique patented packaging give these specialty rice varieties an attractive appearance.
Unique patented packaging give these specialty rice varieties an attractive appearance.

Earlier this month Dwight Roberts, President & CEO of the US Rice Producers Association visited Ralston Family Farms located just south of the town Atkins on the Arkansas River. 

“I have visited rice farms and milling operations in numerous countries around the world but I don’t believe I have ever seen anything as unique as Ralston Family Farms and their attention to so many details,” Dwight said. “This is a real model for the future and I sincerely congratulate the Ralstons on their success through very hard work." 

Visit www.ralstonfamilyfarms.com to learn more about the varieties and the uniqueness of Ralston Family Farms.

Pictured left to right: Dwight Roberts, enjoys his visit with Robin and Tim Ralston.
Dwight Roberts enjoys his visit with Tim & Robin Ralston.

USRPA Social Media Campaign in China Continues with a Great Start

The social media campaign has received positive feedback and attention as the campaign China continues to promote U.S. rice. A translation of the positive marketing message used to educate and reach to Chinese market reads as:

Rice is clocked by the aura of the universe and is full of the essence of heaven and earth.

Rice is the main food of mankind and has fed the people for generations for eight thousand years.

Mountains and trees, grasslands and rivers, nature bred a harmonious and unified soil environment. The United States, a large agricultural country with 1.2 million hectares of rice arable land, cultivates about 10 million tons of rice every year. It has a variety of varieties, including all common long-grain and medium-short-grain varieties on the market. It is of high quality, non-GMO, environmentally friendly, clean, and consistent appearance, and has uniform rice grains. The rice is light in taste, full and chewy kernels, and will not lose quality when reheated. This is a solution to the homesickness of Chinese living overseas? Who is it to have inherited the bright fruits of Chinese civilization?

Washington DC Update

This week on Tuesday, June 15, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies held a hearing to discuss the F.Y. 2022 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Testimony from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack focused on ways in which USDA can address climate change and severe weather events, highlighted agriculture research and relief initiatives, and outlined a number of efforts to fight food and nutrient insecurity, water and air contamination, and cyber-attacks.  For more detailed information a memo is attached.

Mollie Buckler Joins US Rice Producers Association

US Rice Producers Association is proud to welcome Mollie Landers Buckler as the new Coordinator for Delta Producer Relations effective June 7th.

A native of the Missouri Bootheel, Mollie’s agricultural roots run deep on both sides of her family including rice production. With a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, she will focus her efforts on representing the interests of rice farmers from throughout the delta while based in Southeast Missouri.

“We are excited to bring Mollie on board and therefore strengthen our rice promotional, marketing and farmer relation efforts in the delta” according to Dwight Roberts, President & CEO of the USRPA while adding “she has the skills, approach and energy that our rice farmers will appreciate.”

Mollie’s past experience includes important relationship building as the Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement at the University of Missouri, a role that covers a wide variety of constituents including legislators and partners of the Missouri Extension Service. Her skills of event planning and coordination for a variety of events combine well with her ties in agriculture.

Volume 18, Issue 23

June 11, 2021

In This Issue:

USPRA Social Media Campaign in China Kicks Off

The first post of U.S. rice on China’s top social media networks, WeChat and Weibo, went live last week. Social media platforms Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and WeChat, with almost a billion monthly users, have become China’s top social media platforms. Implemented with USDA/FAS ATP program funding, USRPA manages official accounts on both platforms, allowing the U.S. rice industry to target China’s masses in a cost-effective manner, with the potential to achieve exposures in the millions. The account name is created with a catchy phrase in Chinese which literally means “Beautiful life originated from USA,” as the word "rice" is pronounced very similarly to “beautiful/good” in Mandarin. 

Bi-weekly posts will continue for the rest of the year, which will entail key product characteristics, such as U.S. rice growing cycles, farming practices, health benefits, and applications as well as recipes to engage with potential consumers across China.

Washington DC Update

Waters of the U.S.

On June 9, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army (the agencies) will be announced their intent to establish a new definition of “waters of the United States.” The agencies are seeking to better protect vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth. In addition, the Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting a remand of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) in the District Court of Massachusetts today.

 Executive Order 13990 on “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” directs EPA and the Army to review and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, take action to revise or replace the NWPR defining “waters of the United States.” EPA and the Army have completed this review and determined that they have concerns with the NWPR, including that it is causing significant, ongoing, and irreversible environmental damage.

The agencies’ new regulatory effort will be guided by:

The agencies intend to pursue a new rulemaking process to replace the NWPR with a durable definition of “waters of the United States.”In the interim, the NWPR is still in effect across the country. Further details of the agencies’ plans, including opportunities for public participation, will be conveyed in a forthcoming action later this summer.

For more information about the definition of “waters of the United States,” visit https://www.epa.gov/wotus. Please contact CWAwotus@epa.gov with any questions.

This information is provided by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers regarding their intention to revise the definition of Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule issued in 2020.

 It is not clear what changes to the current rule the agencies will be proposing. A new rulemaking process is intended. This announcement is associated with the agencies requesting courts that are currently confronting various legal challenges to the 2020 rule to remand the rule to the agencies for revision.


This week the Congressional Research Service issued the following report: EU Agricultural Domestic Support: Overview and Comparison with the United States.

The Report highlights several policy trends that have emerged in the EU and the United States, including the following:

Traditionally, the United States uses less overall trade-distorting support (OTDS) than the EU, although the EU has made substantial reductions in the volume of OTDS. Since 2011, OTDS outlays (as notified to the World Trade Organization [WTO]) for the EU and United States have been near parity.

In both the EU and the United States, support for less-distorting noncommodity-type programs (e.g., conservation, rural development, agroforestry, nutrition, and climate) has increased substantially.

When measured by producer subsidy equivalent (PSE) as a share of total gross farm receipts, support has been trending lower for both the EU and the United States.  As of 2019, the EU’s share (19%) remained above the U.S. share (12%).

U.S. consumers have received net benefits from agriculture-based support programs (including domestic food aid), whereas EU consumers generally have transferred more support to agricultural producers than they have received in offsetting benefits—that is, the EU’s consumer subsidy estimate (CSE) is negative— although the net transfer has been declining over time as a share of gross farm receipts.

The report is intended to provide information to policy makers because the United States and the EU figure prominently in the development and use of global agricultural policy.  Information comparing their farm support programs may be of interest to Congress as the United States considers reauthorization of the domestic farm bill by 2023 and engages in international trade negotiations.

Volume 18, Issue 22

June 4, 2021

In This Issue:

Washington DC Update - 2022 Funding Overview

President Joe Biden released his full budget request for fiscal 2022 which includes details on plans to ramp up spending at the Agriculture Department for climate research and agricultural adaptation. Under the current law, the 2022 request for discretionary budget authority to fund programs and operating expenses is $29.9 billion, almost 9 percent increase or $2.6 billion above the 2021 enacted level. Of the $2.6 billion increase, 54 percent, or $1.4 billion, are program increases and 46 percent, or $1.2 billion, is an elimination of the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) rescission. This request also includes funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Rural Development, Forest Service, food safety, research, and conservation programs.

The overall budget includes both the Administration's annual spending requests for departments and agencies as well as the sweeping, longer-term proposals under his American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan to address climate change, build roads and other infrastructure and reduce economic inequality. The $29.9 billion in budget authority that Biden is requesting for FY22 at USDA includes $914 million earmarked for climate research and resilience programs as well as clean energy. The administration proposes no cuts in farm programs, including the crop insurance program, and is requesting funding to support an estimated $10.4 billion for farm loans to an estimated 52,000 farmers, Funding for mandatory programs is estimated to be $168.1 billion, a $20 billion decrease from 2021 enacted levels.  

USDA's $29.9 billion budget request, which would be a 9% increase over fiscal 2021, is for discretionary spending programs that are subject to annual appropriations by Congress. USDA’s total estimated budget for FY22 is $198 billion, which includes the cost of farm programs, nutrition assistance and other mandatory spending programs where the cost is set by law or depends on program eligibility. Compared to FY 2021, this amount represents a decrease of almost $17.4 billion. The budget assumes a pay cost increase of 2.7 percent and includes an increase of $200 million across the Department to cover the pay and benefit increases. and the budget would fully fund USDA's network of county offices.

The 2022 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Of note, there is no mention in the budget of using the Commodity Credit Corp. for climate-related spending, such as a carbon bank. Total CCC spending for FY22 is estimated at $10.3 billion, far below the CCC $30 billion in spending authority. Proposals to use the CCC to support carbon markets has run into intense Republican opposition.

Climate-related spending increases in the budget include funding such as:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service's budget for conservation technical assistance would increase by $43 million to $774 million to support the administration's emphasis on helping producers implement climate-friendly farming practices.

Funding for USDA’s climate hubs, multi-agency regional centers that provide advice and analysis on climate adaptation, would increase by $3 million to $23 million in FY22.

The Agricultural Research Service’s budget authority would increase from $1.6 billion to $1.9 billion in FY22, with increases of $99 million for clean energy and $92 million for climate science.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which funds extramural research at land-grant universities and other institutions, would see its budget authority increase from $1.8 billion to $2.2 billion. Some $91 million would be earmarked for climate research.

The Economic Research Service’s budget would increase from $85 million to $91 million in FY22, allowing for a $4 million increase in climate research.

To review the USDA budget proposal here.