U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Wednesday joined colleagues from other rice-producing states to encourage U.S. and Iraqi officials to take steps to increase U.S. rice exports to Iraq.
In separate letters to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Dr. Fareed Yasseen, the Iraq Ambassador to the United States, Senators from Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, encouraged the issuance and implementation of a U.S.-specific rice tender under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for rice tenders between the two countries.
Highlighting the benefit to both nations, the Senators wrote, “Rice farmers in our states recently finished harvesting the largest American rice crop in a decade. The U.S.-specific rice tender under the terms of the MOU would positively impact both the Iraqi people and our American rice farmers, especially those farmers struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Iraq is an important destination for American-grown rice because the majority of its population consumes rice daily and almost 90 percent of the nation’s supply is imported. The United States shipped 390,000 metric tons to Iraq since the first MOU was signed in 2016.
In 2020, Mississippi Delta farmers harvested almost 12.6 million hundredweight of rice on 170,000 acres. The $138 million value of the crop made Mississippi the sixth leading rice producer in the United States last year.
Led by Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.), the letters were also signed by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Read the letter to Secretary of State Blinken here and the letter to Iraqi Ambassador Yasseen here.