U.S. Department of Agriculture and USA Rice officials have spread the word that the U.S. and China reached agreement on a phytosanitary protocol that will permit the import of U.S. milled rice to the Communist country. 

"The challenge now is to move from agreement to shipments," Betsy Ward, USA Rice chief executive officer (CEO), was quoted as saying.

USA Rice noted that it took an extraordinary effort over a long and drawn out timeframe of years to reach the agreement. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials have provided some details on how they intend to turn the phytosanitary protocol into actual export opportunities for U.S. rice growers. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) laid out a series of steps involving separate inspections by APHIS and its Chinese counterpart of U.S. mills and storage facilities interested in exporting to China, publication by China of a list of ports eligible to receive U.S. rice and, finally, issuance of a decree by the Chinese government authorizing imports.

If there are no setbacks, rice imports to China could be permitted by early spring, according to the agency. That does not mean that China will be buying from the U.S. but only that they can buy from the U.S.

U.S. mills and storage facilities interested in exporting to China and willing to comply with the insect trapping and record keeping requirements of the protocol have to be finalized before anything else can proceed. USA Rice announced it will continue to work with APHIS and take the lead in educating the industry about the specific requirements of the protocol and work plan.