The USA Rice Outlook Conference, Dec. 4-6, at the Hilton Austin Hotel, in Austin, Texas, will focus on the three of the most important issues facing U.S. rice producers these days — the WTO, the farm bill and emerging markets.

Today, more than ever before, world trade issues affect all segments of the U.S. rice industry. Rice conference speakers will discuss those issues and offer insight into how the sixth WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong will play out — including possible outcomes and implications for rice producers.

Speakers include Paul Drazek, DTB Associates, who has served as a U.S. trade negotiator in Geneva and as agricultural attaché in Mexico, Joe Outlaw, Texas A&M University, who is a co-director of the Agricultural Food and Policy Center, and Eric J. Wailes, who conducts research on agricultural policy, trade and marketing.

They'll also hear the latest on the 2007 farm bill from Jim Wiesemeyer, Informa Economics, who will share his views on what is happening behind the scenes on the Hill.

USDA market analyst Nathan Childs will provide an overview of the domestic and global markets and the outlook for rice. Representatives of each U.S. rice-producing state will recap the 2005 growing season and provide outlooks for the coming year in rice.

There'll be a counter-cyclical payment update from Dennis Koong of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, who will discuss recent price-reporting policy revisions and the relationship to the CCP calculation.

There will also be an update on the Conservation Security Program, the voluntary conservation program authorized by the 2002 farm bill. The update will feature the debut of a new public service campaign partnership between NRCS and the USA Rice Federation.

Speakers will also discuss domestic and international markets for rice. In the latter, a panel of leading authorities and specialists will focus on issues influencing sales of U.S.-grown rice in all sectors of the domestic market.

To register on-line or for more information, visit www.usarice.com and click on industry affairs. Or for more information, call 703-236-1447.

Last year's rice conference was the second largest in the history of the conference.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com