Two of the most important issues facing U.S. rice producers in the coming months and years — genetically-engineered rice and the farm bill — will be on the program at the USA Rice Outlook Conference, Dec. 3-5, at the Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev.

Featured speaker on farm policy is former congressman and former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Larry Combest. Combest will provide an overview of the issues shaping the next farm bill, including the budget situation, trade issues, election outcomes, competing policy proposals and new players in the farm bill dialogue.

Combest, along with former Congressman Charlie Stenholm, is considered to be the principle author of the 2002 farm bill. He began working as a farm bill consultant with the USA Rice staff on Feb. 1.

A farm bill session at the conference will focus on a number of the key factors influencing farm policy from the perspective of those inside the debate in Congress and the administration. Jim Wiesemeyer of Informa Economics and consultant to Pro Farmer will provide post-election impacts on farm programs and key trade policy issues.

The U.S. rice industry was shaken to its foundation with the Aug. 18, 2006, announcement by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns of the discovery of trace elements of GE rice in commercial long-grain samples. The announcement shocked the U.S. rice industry, as no GE rice was known to be in the U.S. commercial supply.

In the short-term, U.S. rice prices suffered, and in the long term, a number of importing countries felt compelled to impose testing procedures on incoming shipments of U.S. long-grain rice to ensure they contain no GE rice. In this session, research and industry experts will examine events to date as well as issues and actions going forward.

Special guest speaker (invited) Bruce Knight, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, USDA/APHIS, will review the latest developments in the LibertyLink GE rice issue including USDA's effort to assist the rice industry and the outlook on this issue.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Nathan Childs, senior rice market analyst with USDA's Economic Research Service, will provide an overview of the domestic and global market and the outlook for U.S. rice.

Another important session is the new products and technology breakfast showcase, where attendees can hear about innovations in rice-related products, services and technologies. The conference will conclude with annual state production outlooks and research reports.

The USA Rice Outlook Conference will also hold a trade show, a comprehensive annual U.S. expositions devoted exclusively to rice-related equipment, technology, products and services.

For more information, call the USA Rice Federation at (703) 236-1447, or (703) 236-1472. You can also find more information at www.usarice.com under industry.