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Riceland CEO Kevin McGilton on the Farm Bill & Challenges in Farming

2 min read

Kevin McGilton was named Riceland CEO in December. He previously served as vice president of government affairs and chief of staff. McGilton has been with Riceland for 20 years, traveling the world to sell rice as vice president of export sales. Before joining Riceland, he worked for USA Rice in Washington, D.C.

McGilton earned a bachelor’s in business management from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

What were you looking for in the new Farm Bill and how do you feel about the current proposal?

The rice industry has made it clear that the farm safety net provisions need improvement due to inflationary pressure on input costs. Conservation programs should remain voluntary and incentive-based. The bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on May 24 significantly improves the safety net for rice and other commodities our farmer-members produce. The bill’s conservation title keeps the major programs voluntary and incentive-based while positioning additional funding for future farm bills.

What have been the biggest challenges to the industry during your two decades at Riceland?

U.S. rice is a non-genetically modified organism crop, but in August 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that certain long-grain varieties tested positive for genetic modification. This finding was devastating to the Southern rice industry. Large export customers canceled contracts, and importing nations shut their borders. In true agriculture fashion, the industry rallied, and Arkansas led the way in developing a protocol to remove all traces of genetically modified rice from the industry. Our darkest hour turned into one of our most significant victories.

What are the biggest challenges currently?

Our farmer-members must evaluate every year which crop to plant on their limited acres. Rice, soybeans, corn and, to some extent, cotton are all competing for the same acreage. U.S. rice continues to be a non-GMO crop, which is a good selling point to those who may be biased against the technology. However, not having that tool in the varietal development toolbox is a disadvantage compared to other crops. Per-acre yields for rice appear to have plateaued, while other crops continue to see steady increases. The culinary qualities of Southern long-grain rice continue to be excellent. Still, the yield of milled rice that the industry can produce from the raw commodity has declined significantly in recent years, which adds additional financial stress to the industry and the high inflationary factors impacting all businesses. India currently controls 40% of the world rice trade due to over-subsidizing its rice producers, which leads to overproduction and dumping of cheap rice on the world market. The low price negatively impacts rice producers worldwide and in the United States.

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