Louisiana's Commissioner of Agriculture is pressuring U.S. officials to open the doors to Iraq's rice markets. “We in Louisiana, and those in other rice growing states, have plenty of rice to meet the needs of Iraq. Our nation's efforts in defeating the regime of Saddam Hussein should not go unnoticed when markets in that country open up,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom.

Odom and Louisiana state Sen. Willie Mount of Lake Charles have asked Gov. Kathleen Blanco to intercede with President George W. Bush on behalf of Louisiana rice farmers, and make rice markets in Iraq available to the U.S. rice industry.

Specifically, Odom said that only countries that were part of the coalition in the war to topple Hussein should participate in the sale of rice and other commodities to Iraq. Currently, Vietnam and Thailand are supplying Iraq with rice, he said.

“When the foundation of the agriculture economy is endangered by unfavorable trade policies, we are united and committed in our efforts to insure that these trade issues receive a thorough and satisfactory hearing by the Bush administration,” Odom said.

Before an embargo in 1991, Iraq was Louisiana's biggest rice market. Rice means about $200 million a year to Louisiana's rice farmers and processors.