In a Jan. 28 letter, the USA Rice Federation and the U.S. Rice Producers Association ask Veneman to use her discretionary authority to pay the maximum authorized rate of 70 percent of the total projected counter-cyclical payment, less any counter-cyclical payment already received.

The letter is signed by Gary Sebree, a rice producer from Stuttgart, Ark., and chairman of the USA Rice Federation, and Nolen Canon, rice grower from Tunica, Miss., and chairman of the U.S. Rice Producers Association. Between them, the groups represent almost 100 percent of U.S. rice growers.

Those rice producers who have signed up for the rice program under the 2002 farm bill received an earlier counter-cyclical advance payment calculated at 35 percent of the expected total payment. Rice producers are now asking that a second, similar payment be released as soon as possible.

“We believe a second partial counter-cyclical payment is warranted,” the letter states. “We believe the availability of partial counter-cyclical payments will assist producers hard-hit by losses associated with disastrous weather and chronically low prices in obtaining production financing.

“We also urge you to carefully review the data available for all other crops eligible for counter-cyclical payments to determine if a partial counter-cyclical payment could be made available for those crops.”

According to the rice groups, industry analysts have determined the average farm price received for the 2002 crop remains below the base loan rate, and the total counter-cyclical payment rate is likely to be the maximum allowed under the law.

“Since over 50 percent of expected marketings have been completed and the possibility that average prices received will rise above the loan rate is highly unlikely, an advance of 70 percent could be made without concern that producers might have to repay partial payments in excess of the final, total payment rate,” say Sebree and Canon.

A copy of the letter is also on its way to Farm Service Agency Administrator James Little, spokesmen for the groups said.

e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com