U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) are encouraging the Trump administration to level the playing field for American rice producers by reforming the nation’s largest and oldest trade preference program, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

The Mississippi Senators joined a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that supports a USA Rice Federation petition to remove all rice tariff lines from the list of commodities eligible for duty-free import under the GSP.

“We understand GSP is meant to be a win-win for both the U.S. and our trading partners, but unfortunately in the case of rice, our biggest competitors on the world stage have taken advantage of the program for far too long,” the Senators wrote.

“Over the past several years, we have seen an annual uptick in rice imports from countries that have GSP eligibility.  Coupled with our competitors’ high and rising domestic subsidies, these unfair advantages are having negative implications for our rice farmers, millers, merchants and allied businesses, who are losing domestic market share,” the letter said.  “As you continue your efforts to promote fair and free trade, we encourage you to remove rice from the GSP eligibility list.”

The GSP program provides duty-free treatment to goods from developing countries to promote economic growth in those nations.  Under the current program, highly-subsidized rice growing competitors are increasing rice exports to the United States at the expense of American producers.  The Mississippi rice producers harvested more than 8.3 million hundredweight produced in 2019, a decrease from the 10.1 million hundredweight produced in 2018.

Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) authored the letter, which was also signed by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

A copy of the letter is available here.

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Release from Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith.