Asia rice demand strong for Yuba-Sutter
See county crop reports: http://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/crop-84481-county-database.html
Agriculture faces a sweet future as the middle class in China and India expands and imports more food from the United States, rice growers were told Tuesday in Yuba City.
"We have got a great market opportunity," said Randy Russell, who represents the California Rice Commission in Washington, DC.
Russell studied public administration and economics as a university student and said farming would be his focus if he were beginning his career.
"I would double-down on agriculture," he said.
Rice was the highest valued crop in Yuba-Sutter in 2011 at $228 million. In Sutter County alone, it was valued at $166.4 million.
Russell said at the annual growers meeting held by the Sacramento-based rice commission that the United States is ideally positioned to feed a growing world market. India alone is projected to be home to a middle class of 1.2 billion people by 2050, Russell said.
Rising values of California ag land have been linked to growing demand in China for wa nuts, almonds and pistachios grown in the state. California farm real estate was valued in 2012 at $7,200 an acre — a record high for the state and $300 more an acre above the record set in 2011.
Russell, reviewing national politics, also noted that while rural America overwhelming supported Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the country's changing demographic means Republicans will be a minority party unless the GOP has a new message and messengers.
George Soares, who represents the rice commission in the state capitol, spoke about the state's shifting politics. The blue, Democratic politics of the California coast, are creeping into Sacramento and the San Joaquin valleys, he said.
Registration trends in the state show Democrats stable at 44 percent while Republicans are at 29 percent and declining.
"Your party is disappearing," Soares said of the GOP. "I don't know that the Republicans know how to stop it."
Tim Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the rice commission, said the group's tasks include making sure rice is relevant. The commission has been running radio spots for about a year on the Sacramento-based Armstrong & Getty program promoting the economic benefits rice growing brings to the region.
The broadcast message has been effective, Johnson said. "You'd be amazed at the number of comments," he said.
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