WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Prioritizing Offensive Agricultural Disputes and Enforcement Act was introduced in the Senate by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Boozman (R-AR), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Roger Wicker (R-MS); and in the House by Reps. Rick Crawford (R-AR), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Mark Alford (R-MO), Troy Carter (D-LA), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Julia Letlow (R-LA), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Tracey Mann (R-KS), and Austin Scott (R-GA).
The bill establishes a joint task force on agricultural trade enforcement between the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, signaling more engagement with Congress and the private sector on the development of agricultural dispute priorities. The bill also emphasizes the need for an agricultural dispute settlement case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against India’s trade distorting farm subsidies, which could include rice, wheat, pulses, peanuts, cotton, and other commodities.
Rice is among the most government-manipulated crops in the world, leading to over-subsidization in a number of key export markets and forcing U.S. rice farmers to compete at a disadvantage. USA Rice has repeatedly called on the U.S. government to address this issue, particularly with regard to India as the world’s largest rice exporter, at the WTO through a dispute settlement case.
“We appreciate Senator Cassidy, Congressman Higgins and their colleagues for leading in Congress on this critical issue for the U.S. rice industry,” said Bobby Hanks, CEO of Supreme Rice in Crowley, Louisiana, and chair of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee. “A WTO case against India’s rice subsidies is long overdue and long-term policy changes in India would help to make rice farmers from the U.S. and other origins that play by the rules, more competitive on the world market.”
“It is a relief to see Congressman Crawford, Senator Boozman, and others introduce this bill. As a farmer I spend a lot of time frustrated with the lack of enforcement in these markets that are clearly violating the rules,” said Dow Brantley, who farms rice, soybean, corn, and cotton near England, Arkansas, and is vice chair of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee. “We work hard to keep our cost of production as low as possible yet get beat out in the marketplace by commodities that are produced inefficiently because of the staggering levels of subsidies provided by their governments.”
“When you eat seafood gumbo, you expect the shrimp and rice to be grown in Louisiana with our health standards,” said Senator Cassidy. “Americans’ health should not be harmed because some countries have chosen not to play by the rules. Bringing China and India into compliance will level the playing field.”
“This bill helps get us to a point where our government is going to coordinate and strategize to get more wins for agriculture on the board, and there’s no better place to start than with India. This bill is a win for all of U.S. agriculture because what our trading partners and our export competition are doing has an effect on us, so we need to use all of our tools available to resolve the tipping of the scales we’re seeing,” said Rep. Crawford.
“This legislation aligns with our commitment to provide critically needed financial, trade, and workforce development to our farmers, fishermen, and producers,” said Congressman Higgins. “It is imperative that we ensure an even playing field for American exports and strengthen fair trading relationships with foreign countries.”