Farmers attending the 2010 joint annual meeting of the Louisiana Rice Council and the Louisiana Rice Growers Association heard an optimistic report from a Washington, D.C., agriculture journalist recently.

“You are in a growth industry,” said Jim Weisemeyer of Informa Economics, an agricultural research and consulting company, at a meeting in Crowley, La.

Increased wealth in China, Indonesia and India will result in an improved diet, “and they will have the money to buy it,” Weisemeyer said.

But he said increased federal regulations continue to threaten the future of farming in the United States.

“I think agriculture is going to be a shining star in the U.S. in the next decade, if you are allowed to be,” the journalist said.

Weisemeyer said the nation’s recovery from a recession will be minimal, and unemployment now at 10 percent may peak at 10.5 percent. He said the nation’s accumulated $12 trillion debt could result in increased interest rates.

It’s likely the federal agriculture budget will be cut this year, and that could speed up the process of writing the 2012 farm bill, he said. Climate change legislation is unlikely to muster congressional approval, he added.

Betsy Ward, president of the USA Rice Federation, told the membership that U.S. rice exports in 2009 set a record at $2.3 billion.

But, she said, the Obama administration does not appear to have an obvious trade policy that could help boost overseas rice sales again.

Ward also said U.S. food aid to Haiti in recent weeks amounted to 28,000 tons sent to the Caribbean nation, with another order in the works.

Reece Langley, USA Rice vice president for government affairs, said crop insurance is likely to be reduced in the next farm bill.

Although climate change legislation appears to have little chance of passage in Congress, he said, the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to act independently and draft new rules that would affect rice farmers. A group of U.S. senators is trying to stop that effort, he said.

Langley said it’s possible that free trade with Cuba could be approved by the administration.

He said cuts to the nation’s farm program are certain, even though two-thirds of it provides nutrition for children. He said farm programs only make up a fourth of one percent of the national budget.

e-mail: bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu