Anheuser-Busch uses millions of tons of rice as a primary ingredient in its staple beers including Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra. More than 70% of the rice it uses is grown in Arkansas and the top input for the crop is water.
The company is trying to find ways to aid farmers in developing and implementing water conservation practices and it donated $100,000 to USA Rice to support the Rice Stewardship Partnership (RSP). The donation was made Wednesday (Sept. 1) at its Jonesboro rice milling facility with U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., giving the keynote address as a team of iconic Budweiser Clydesdales looked on.
“They know where the good rice is at,” the senator said to a crowd of civic and business leaders that included Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver.
It’s the fourth year in a row the Anheuser-Busch Foundation has lent support to the program. The RSP is a public-private venture between USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited, USDA, and supply chain partners that provides growers with technical and financial support to transition to more efficient irrigation, nutrient, and energy practices while creating wildlife habitat on working ricelands.
Arkansas is the nation’s leading rice growing state, producing more than 40% of the U.S. rice crop, bringing in around $1 billion per year in cash farm receipts, according to the 2020 Arkansas Agriculture Profile. Arkansas is also the nation’s leading rice exporter, accounting for about half of all rice from the U.S.
State rice growers planted roughly 18% fewer acres in 2021, falling from 1.46 million acres in 2020 to 1.24 million acres. Nationally, rice acreage fell by 10%, from 3 million acres planted in 2020 to about 2.7 million acres in 2021. This includes long-, short- and medium-grain rice.
Anheuser-Busch is the leading consumer of rice in the country, according to the company. It buys about $120 million worth of rice each year, and it was noted during the presentation that most of the rice used by the company is grown within an hour’s drive of Jonesboro. At its local mill located just outside the city’s limits, about 2.6 million pounds of rice is milled each day.
Boozman apologized to the crowd for his workman-like attire. The two-term senator is about to be locked into a tense primary battle with announced Republican challengers Jake Bequette, Jan Morgan, Michael Deel, and Heath Loftis. He’s been visiting farmers and agriculture related businesses throughout the week.
It’s part of his preparation for implementing the next farm bill which is only a couple of years away. He said one-fourth of the state’s economy is driven by agriculture. Boozman is the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture committee and is considered a frontrunner for chairman of the influential committee if he is re-elected and if the GOP takes back the 50-50 divided U.S. Senate in 2022.
“We’ve been throughout Arkansas talking to producers and visiting farms,” he said.