Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kans., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Jennifer Duffy, senior editor for The Cook Political Report, addressed rice industry members during the general session of the USA Rice Federation’s 2012 Government Affairs Conference at the Hyatt Regency Washington.

Roberts told attendees that he and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., are conducting a series of farm bill hearings and they hope for quick action in writing the legislation. “Producers need certainty, not a short-term fix,” the Roberts said. He called on production agriculture to work together toward the completion of the farm bill.

Duffy said predicting the outcome of this year’s presidential election will be difficult, but that history would say the president’s odds are “pretty good.” However, she said no sitting president has ever been re-elected with unemployment above 7.2 percent, noting the current 8.3 percent unemployment rate.

“The direction of this economy will dictate the outcome of this election,” Duffy said.

USA Rice’s Government Affairs Conference provides rice industry members an opportunity to meet with their lawmakers to discuss key issues and priorities. Producers and other industry members from the six major rice-growing states of Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas will participate in the event, which concludes tomorrow.

In addition to meetings with rice-state lawmakers and other key members of Congress, USA Rice members and staff will meet with key staff members at various departments and agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“As our rice industry members meet with legislators and regulatory officials we hope to convey an understanding that what’s good for agriculture is good for America’s economy,” said USA Rice Federation Chairman Jackie Loewer, a rice farmer from Branch, LA. “Farmers need long-term, effective farm policy and reassurance that regulators won’t hinder American producers as they provide the safest, most abundant and affordable food in the world,” Loewer added. “Hopefully, we will leave Washington having conveyed these key messages.”