The effects of the Trump administration’s policies pose a mixed bag of possibilities for American rice, a USA Rice official said at the recent annual joint meeting of the Louisiana Rice Council and Louisiana Rice Growers. About 250 people attended the event. Betsy Ward, USA Rice president, said President Trump’s nomination of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is good news for Southern agriculture as he favors a strong U.S. export market. “I think this is a good appointment for us,” she said. But she said Trump is opposed to NAFTA, which has been favorable to strengthening the Mexican market for U.S. rice. “It’s been a huge success story for us,” Ward said.
Mexico is the No. 1 market for American rice, sourcing 88 percent of its rice is from the U.S. But with Trump’s cancellation of the Trans Pacific Partnership, Mexico is looking at pursuing individual trade agreements with Pacific Rim countries. Currently, Mexico imposes a 20 percent tariff on Vietnamese rice, but Mexico’s attitude toward the U.S. has chilled. “They could turn around and drop the tariffs tomorrow in retaliation,” said Betsy Ward. Progress made with Cuba by the previous administration could be at risk now. “I think we’re taking a big pause,” Ward said. The appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency is a plus for agriculture, with the expectation that he will roll back harmful regulations, she said.