Mr. Speaker, when the relentless rain and howling winds of Hurricane Rita hit southeast Texas, the agriculture industry took a beating. Texas rice farmers were already having a tough year because of unpredictable weather, increased fuel and fertilizer costs, and the last thing they needed was a visit from the lady of the gulf. Rita's wrath ravaged rice fields and caused power outages in the mills where harvested rice was being dried. The crops in the field just weeks away from the second harvest took a beating.

Bill Dishman, Jr., a rice farmer in my district, owns a farm in the small town of China, Texas. He figures about one-fourth or more of his second crop, that is the one rice farmers count on to make a profit, was lost. Almost every southeast Texas rice farmer suffered damages from this storm.

Following the storm, I had the opportunity to travel to southeast Texas with Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and assess the damage and speak to the local rice farmers. Their concerns were serious and their outlook was grim. Texas rice farmers like Bill Dishman and Ray Stoesser need to remain on their combines and the rice needs to grow more, and we need more markets like Cuba. These are tense and troubling times. The American rice farmer, Mr. Speaker, is becoming an endangered species.