Arkansas Assistant Attorney General Arnold Jochums told the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board that the expense was justified in the context of the board market development role. He said the state Attorney General's office concurs with the board's decision that the expense was appropriate, but has not been asked to render a formal opinion on the matter.

Jochums comments came during a meeting of the research and promotion board in Little Rock earlier this month. Marvin Hare, a rice farmer from Newport, chaired the August 6 board meeting.

"While this expense to defend access to the rice industry's number one export market was clearly appropriate and within the scope of our market development role, we appreciate the concurrence of the state Attorney General's office," Hare said.

USA Rice officials said they have worked extensively with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA on the Mexico anti-dumping case. USTR and USDA announced in June the U.S. government's intention to seek consultations with Mexico within the World Trade Organization on rice and other agricultural products.

"Encouraging the U.S. government to move forward with the WTO dispute resolution consultation is a major accomplishment for USA Rice this year," said USA Rice Federation Chairman Gary Sebree, who farms near Stuttgart. "One of our top goals is gaining meaningful market access in key international markets for all types and forms of U.S. rice.

“You can't conduct effective market development activities and increase consumption if you don't have market access. That's the bottom line."

Jochums was invited to the Research and Promotion Board meeting after a group of farmers complained that rice farmer checkoff dollars should not have been used for legal fees for protests against Mexico's imposition of higher duties on U.S. rice shipments.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com