Rice: Louisiana Legislature Addresses Market Pretenders

Green Giant Riced Vegetables

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development met to discuss and hear testimony on an important piece of legislation to be considered for the 2019 Legislative Session.  The bill, SB 152 – Truth in Labeling of Agriculture Commodities, includes language for the definition (SOI) for rice, and also establishes distinct definitions for other commodities such as meats and seafood, and how they may be labeled in Louisiana.

Senate Ag Committee Chair Francis Thompson, who sponsored the bill, said, “We’re not trying to affect industry in any negative sense.  All we’d like to do is make sure we have truth in labeling for the products that we’ve mentioned in SB 152.  This would prohibit false and misleading labeling of ag products, and far too long this issue has gone unchecked.”

State Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Mike Strain opened the testimony segment of the hearing with remarks about the need for truth in labeling legislation.  “The public assumes and believes, and has the right to assume that what they’re being told is true and these products are exactly what they are buying, that it is safe and that it is wholesome, and that is our responsibility.”

Strain elaborated on the growing trend by other states to create similar legislation due to concerns of false advertising and the misleading of consumers with products that are mislabeled and marketed as something they’re not.

A number of Louisiana rice growers were in attendance at the hearing to show their support for SB 152, while Scott Franklin, a rice farmer from northeast Louisiana and member of the Louisiana Producers Group, gave heartfelt testimony to the Committee on why this bill is so important to the state’s rice industry.

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“These companies know that there is a massive potential profit and new market share if they call their products ‘rice,'” said Franklin.  “They would struggle mightily if they truthfully and honestly named these items what they actually are: minced vegetable product.  Louisiana seafood gumbo over minced vegetable product does not sound appetizing to anyone, and these corporations know it.  So instead, they lie to the consumer and call it rice, thus stealing the cultural and culinary advantages of Louisiana rice.”

At the close of the hearing, SB 152 passed unanimously, along with the Committee’s amendments, including the language changes the Producers Group suggested in removing references to “ground/by products.”

Next, the bill must be presented and passed in the full Senate before it moves on to a similar process in the House, followed by signature of the governor to become law.

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