The lack of sophistication and knowledge of international marketing expressed in David Bennett’s June 6 article on the Mexican anti-dumping case is appalling.
Market access and market promotion are inexorably intertwined. It is legitimate to spend rice industry check-off funds and U.S. government funds to sell more rice to our number one market. Rice Council members and U.S. government officials have repeatedly said so.
We encourage close scrutiny of our international and domestic programs. That’s why on July 26, 2002, the USA Rice Federation sent a four-page letter to 17,651 rice industry individuals explaining in detail the Mexican anti-dumping issue and specifically stating how funds would be expended. There’s no need to file Freedom of Information requests. Just read your mail.
To discuss this and other issues, I spoke at the Arkansas Rice Council Annual Convention last January. The meeting was well publicized. Mr. Alter and Mr. Ellis did not attend.
I called Mr. Ellis in February and offered to meet him any time, anywhere to explain our programs and answer his questions.
We met in Memphis in April. I answered all of his questions, gave him a copy of the latest audited financial statements and provided all information requested including copies of cancelled checks.
The entire approval and implementation process for the Mexican anti-dumping case has been totally open and transparent and will continue to be. We’re doing what’s best for the U.S. rice industry. Some people may misunderstand what we’re doing but that does not change the veracity of the facts and the merit of our intentions.
Stuart E. Proctor, Jr.
President and CEO
USA Rice Federation
David Bennett responds: Although I don't speak for Mr. Alter or Mr. Ellis, I want to address an issue raised in Mr. Proctor's letter. In order to do so, I must first give a bit of background.
In preparing this story, there was a tremendous amount of information to sift through. The final 2,200-word story originally began at a size nearly three times as large. Something had to be left out.
I decided – rather than crafting a contentious ping-ponging, charge-countercharge story – to simply air the lawyer fee complaint and then allow the federation to explain its position (a position, incidentally, that doesn't seem unreasonable). It turned out that to properly explore the federation's actions and fears over the Mexican situation required the vast bulk of the story. That meant that almost all of what Mr. Alter and Mr. Ellis had to say was excised (a point of interest: the federation's position got some 1,000 words more than the farmers').
With all that in mind, it bothers me that Mr. Proctor's letter suggests the men exhibit an "appalling"…"lack of sophistication and knowledge of international marketing…" In this, Mr. Proctor is mistaken.
If anyone else passed judgment on these men in such a manner, I want to apologize. In story preparation, both men spoke at length – with both "knowledge" and "sophistication" – on a number of rice-related issues including marketing. Any contrary view based on the story is my fault, not theirs. It would be unfair and incorrect for anyone to think otherwise.