Texas rice industry step up pressure on Congress

Stuttgart Daily Leader

By: Peter Bachmann

Washington, D.C.-based Engage Cuba, an advocacy group dedicated to ending the travel and trade embargo of Cuba, launched their eighth State Council for Cuba here with an impressive list of 40 business leaders from a wide array of industries and sectors around the state.

The council will assist in building statewide support for congressional action on Cuba, including lifting trade restrictions on agricultural products, allowing for the extension of U.S. credit and the liberalization of travel.

The rice industry is well-represented on the Texas State Council for Cuba similar to the state councils launched in Arkansas and Louisiana with seven members of the Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group and USA Rice leadership. Rice-industry members of the state council include: Daniel Berglund, Keith Gray, Brian Ottis, Dick Ottis, Joe Outlaw, L.G. Raun and Linda Raun.

Keith Gray, with American Rice, Inc., which is a subsidiary of Riviana Foods and a member of several USA Rice boards and committees, said, "It's really exciting to be a part of this historic movement and to be one of the 40 founding members of this State Council, leading the charge for lifting the Cuban embargo."

Gray continued, "Access to the Cuban market would surely benefit my business, but more importantly the businesses of the hundreds of rice and other crop farmers that we work with to purchase grains. Rice is happy to carry the flag on this issue but we've learned it's going to take a collective effort amongst agriculture and the broader coalition of industries and businesses to make it a reality. The Cuban people have made it clear that they have a preference for U.S.-grown long grain rice and the Texas rice industry is looking forward to using our logistical, economical, and grain quality advantages to help feed their country."

Texas is geographically and economically positioned to provide significant exports and increase business with the removal of trade, financing, and travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba. Agricultural commodities, such as Texas long grain rice, would be an ideal export for generating two-way commerce with the island.