Rice Research Benefits Local Farmers

RICHLAND PARISH -- Louisiana is one of the top rice producing states in the country. On Thursday morning, north Louisiana rice farmers gathered to discuss what's the crops outlook and new varieties that are being grown.

Rice researchers based out of Crowley, LA met with dozens of local farmers in Richland Parish at a research plot.

"We're evaluating different rice varieties in experimental lines that might be released as new rice varieties," explained Steve Linscombe, a Rice Breeder with the Rice Research Station.

"[These are] new varieties which will help us feed the population better by using less water and fertilization," Damian Bollich commented.

Damian Bollich has been farming for over 30 years and says meetings like this are essential for the rice industry. He says the research has taught him about different disease prevention and more efficient fertilization practices.

"It's just very, very beneficial for us to have these plots up here," mentioned Bollich. "Some of them are a little bit different than what we have. They have different varieties from other states also that we can look at."

Six states produce 99% of the nation's rice: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas; Arkansas is the largest producer and Louisiana is the 3rd largest producer. Local farmers say they have a good crop in the field this year, throughout the state.

"Generally across the rice belt most of the crop is looking good," said Reece Langley, Vice President for Government Affairs with the USA Rice Federation. "As we heard here today at the field day, some of it is a little bit late compared to a normal year. But, it certainly still seems to have good yield potential."

Still, some farmers say they'd like to see the rice price a little higher.

"The price potential for medium grain because of some of the dynamics in the market is better than long grain," Linscombe stated. "But, we'd like to see the price of long grain come up a little bit."

But the increase would have little to no affect on prices on store shelves for consumer.

Earlier this year, the Agricultural Act of 2014 was passed. And now the Department of Agriculture is in the process of implementing new policies and programs for agricultural producers and landowners thanks to the new farm bill.

The industry is united to find solutions to any challenges they will face during implementation. But, Langley says the rice industry is nervous about the regulation of water that's used on the farm.

"There are a lot of regulatory issues that we are seeing coming out of the EPA," Langley said. "Things that deal with how waters are treated under the clean water act."

Langley flew into Louisiana earlier this week to be a part of this rice field day so that he could educate growers about the new options that are available to them as they sign up for new programs during the implementation phase.

Growers will have until early 2015 to signup for new programs based on the new farm bill policies.

Related Story: Farmers Need to Plan for Changes in New Farm Bill

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