Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to highlight the prospect of using rice as an alternative energy source in the production of ethanol.

We all understand the importance of securing affordable and reliable means of energy for future generations. On the heels of the comprehensive energy bill that this body passed in April, which encourages ethanol production, I submit that rice and rice farmers specifically could contribute to this endeavor.

Rice producers like those in my southeast Texas district face great difficulties in finding markets for their goods. Just a few years ago, there were over 600,000 acres in Texas that was farmed for rice, about the size of Rhode Island. Now, less than 200,000 acres are rice farmlands.

One untapped potential market is ethanol. While many folks think about ethanol developed from corn, not much attention has been directed to ethanol developed from rice. The process of cellulosic conversion can derive ethanol from various sources including rice. It is essential that the Department of Agriculture continue their work with the universities in Texas to fund research into this type of conversion to ethanol.

I understand the problems facing rice farmers in Texas. It is critical to support scientific research that develops new markets for our farmers. Cellulosic conversion holds the promise of deriving ethanol from rice along with other biomass materials.

Mr. Speaker, the President's budget was tough on farm programs and it is important that we support agricultural research that benefits American farmers and helps supply Americans with more energy.