• "Rice Day" Celebrated During Louisiana Legislative Session

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 25, 2017
    Rep. Terry Brown (second from left) checking
    with the cafeteria in heaven
    LA-Rice-Day,-Rep-Terry-Brown-&-Leaders
    BATON ROUGE, LA – Yesterday, Louisiana rice farmers and millers spent the day here celebrating "Louisiana Rice Day at the Capitol” to highlight the economic importance of the Louisiana rice industry to the state economy, and the environmental and cultural benefits to its citizens.  

    Louisiana Rice Growers Association President Michael Fruge told members of the House Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee that rice is grown in 31 parishes by more than 1,000 growers.  Fruge said he was “proud of the resilience of our rice growers in challenging economic times, especially in relation to the hardships associated with the 2016 and 2017 flooding that caused significant damage to Louisiana's rice crop.”

    Committee member, Representative John Stefanski, reminded fellow legislators, "The rice industry represents all of the small businesses in our rural community."  Stefanski also took a personal privilege to recognize the industry leadership in attendance when the entire Louisiana House of Representatives convened, including Fruge, Donald Berken, Kevin Berken, Jeff Durand, Richard Fontenot, Mark Frey, Steve Linscombe, Jackie Loewer, Jeffery Sylvester, and Robbie Trahan.

    The rice industry delegation also was recognized at both the Senate Health and Welfare, and the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs Committees, along with the Louisiana Rural Caucus.  

    Trahan, the CEO of Falcon Rice Mill in Crowley, spoke about the importance of the Louisiana rice milling industry as well as the impact that rice exports have on the economic health of Louisiana’s rural communities.  Representative Jeffery Hall, who represents an urban district in Alexandria, said, "You can live in the city but you can't live without the rural communities that feed us."

    Representative Terry Brown added, "If they don't have rice and gravy in heaven, then I don't want to go."

    The day ended with an acknowledgement from Senator Bret Allain, a fellow farmer from Jeanerette, who invited Senators from rice producing districts to recognize the Louisiana rice industry leaders amongst all of their peers.  Richard Fontenot said, "This was a great way to collectively thank our legislators not only for their support in the past but also our work together in the future."

    Each legislator received a one-pound bag of Louisiana rice donated by the Louisiana Rice Growers Association along with educational material about the Louisiana rice industry.
  • Louisiana Weather Update

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 05, 2017
    Cloudy skies as far as the eye can see
    LA-Weather-Update,-Fruge-Photo
    CROWLEY, LA – Wet weather is the theme in the midsouth this week and Louisiana is no exception.  The northern part of the state dodged the bullet this time, but a lot of rice, and other crops - soybeans and crawfish - have been impacted in central and south Louisiana.  The hardest hit areas seem to be in Avoyelles, Evangeline, and St. Landry parishes.  However, the excess water there will move south so it is too early to determine what the extent of damage will be in any given area.

    Michael Fruge, a rice farmer in St. Landry Parish, reported 10 inches of rainfall last Saturday.  “I spent all of Sunday repairing busted levees.  The process of using tractors with blades to repair levees destroyed a lot of rice and we also had damage to soybeans in this area,” he said.

    Over in Jeff Davis and Cameron Parishes, Paul Johnson’s rain gauge measures 12-14 inches since Saturday.  Johnson said, “My rice is ok for now, but we’ve got deep water on every acre and I’m just hoping it drains off before the water from central Louisiana arrives.”

    Kevin Berken, also in Jeff Davis Parish, is dealing with very deep water but is working to get it pumped off.  If successful, Berken is not expecting any impact on his rice.

    “I can only estimate rain totals here as my 8-inch rain gauge overflowed last Saturday,” said Jeffery Sylvester in his report from Avoyelles Parish.  “We started pumping water off immediately and building up protection levees to stop water from the surrounding area from entering the farm.  Then Wednesday dropped another five inches that overtopped the raised protection levees so we’ve got nowhere to discharge pumped-off water.”  Sylvester expects to lose 2,000 acres of rice because the water cannot recede quickly enough, and noted that although his crawfish ponds are okay for now, many of his neighbors will likely lose much of their crawfish in addition to their rice.

    St. Martin Parish received less rain Saturday but by Wednesday total precipitation was between eight and nine inches.  Jeff Durand expects some stand reduction on younger rice and still has 40 percent of his crop to plant.  “This is rice planted following crawfish,” said Durand.  “These latest rains will delay those plantings by a week or more, which will likely reduce the yields on those acres.  We’re also losing some crawfish on ponds where the water topped the levees.”

    The full extent of the impact on Louisiana rice production will not be known for a couple weeks.  The big factor, according to Dr. Dustin Harrell with the LSU AgCenter, is how long the rice is submerged.  “How long the rice can live underwater depends on the conditions and the stage of rice development but consensus tells us rice can live under submerged conditions about eight days,” said Harrell.  “For now, we just need to focus on fixing washed out levees and getting the water off the submerged rice as soon as we possibly can.”
  • Louisiana Congressman Meets with Local Rice Millers

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 19, 2017
    From left: Ann Stone, Congressman Higgins,
    Robert Trahan, and Bobby Hanks
    LA-Rice-Millers-Meet-with-Rep.-Clay-Higgins
    RAYNE, LOUISIANA -- On Monday, Congressman Clay Higgins and his in-state staff met with the CEO's of three southwest Louisiana rice mills and USA Rice staff while he was in the district. Congressman Higgins said the goal of the meeting was "to listen and learn more about the Louisiana rice industry."

    Ann Stone of Farmers Rice Mill, Bobby Hanks of Supreme Rice Mill, and Robert Trahan of Falcon Rice Mill attended the meeting and emphasized the critical importance of the rice milling and manufacturing industry to the economic viability of Louisiana.  They discussed the opportunities that rice exports provide in supporting the economic health of Louisiana's farmers and millers and explained how the industry benefits from strong trade agreements such as NAFTA, that represents an 800,000 MT market for U.S. rice.

    Bobby Hanks covered some of the challenges the Louisiana rice industry is facing, including the lackluster enforcement of trade agreements.

    "The biggest issue is the subsidization of rice in excess of WTO commitments by some of our competitors," Hanks said.  

    Higgins acknowledged that WTO rules are being violated and said he will do everything he can to "eliminate the cheating."

    Hanks also referenced the need to keep pressure on the Iraqi government to buy U.S. rice as is outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding on rice purchases between the U.S. and Iraq.  Higgins said he would request an opportunity to testify with the subcommittees that have oversight with Iraq to inform them that Iraq has not honored their commitment.

    Higgins also discussed the need for normal commercial relations between the United States and Cuba and lifting the trade embargo.  Stone thanked him for his support of the Crawford bill allowing U.S. companies the opportunity to sell products on credit to Cuba.  Higgins replied, saying, "There must be a competitive base and access to private endeavors that want to buy rice," and that he considers his office as “the point of the spear in pushing agricultural trade with Cuba."

    The millers also stressed the need to use U.S.-grown rice for food aid rather than just sending difficult-to-track cash to a troubled region.

    "There is no reason we should send cash to these countries when we have high quality, enriched commodities like rice to offer," Trahan explained.

    Higgins remarked that while there is clearly a great deal of work to do, he expects that working together with USA Rice would yield results.

    "Louisiana has superior products, and the rice industry is among the best-represented in Washington by USA Rice," Higgins said.
  • Falcon Rice Mill Added to National Culinary Heritage Register

    by Michael Klein | Apr 11, 2017
    Check the register
    COMM-Falcon Rice Mill Culinary Heritage-170411

    NEW ORLEANS, LA -- The National Food & Beverage Foundation recently added Falcon Rice Mill to its National Culinary Heritage Register, a list of culinary products, processes, inventions, traditions, and establishments that are at least fifty years old and have contributed significantly to the development of American foodways.

    The mill, located in Crowley, Louisiana, has been owned by the same family throughout its 75 years in business.  Founded in 1942 as a seed rice business, the Falcon family installed a milling operation in 1950 and started selling rice under several brand names including the popular Cajun Country brand of long, medium, whole grain brown, jasmine, and popcorn rice.

    “Falcon Rice Mill came to our attention as we tried to find facilities other than restaurants and groceries that have contributed to the food of America,” said Liz Williams, president of the National Food & Beverage Foundation.  “And we are so happy to include them in the Register because for years they have been helping America eat.” 

    “When Liz Williams approached me about the Culinary Heritage Register it was a huge honor,” Trahan said.  “The designation not only acknowledges the fact that we’re a big part of the Cajun culture but also puts us in impressive company when you look at who else is represented from Louisiana.  You’re talking about world-famous places like Antoine’s, Tujague’s, and the French Market.  It also helps us tell our story because our customers really appreciate knowing we’ve been around a long time, our products are time-tested, and we’re devoted to quality.”

    The Culinary Heritage Register is available
    online and is intended to be a database for future researchers looking for companies around the country who are sustaining contributors to the food of America. 

  • USDA Estimates Rice Acreage Down 17 Percent

    by Michael Klein | Mar 31, 2017

    Can you check again?
    COMM-USDA Estimates Rice Acreage Down 17 Percent-170331

    WASHINGTON, DC - Area planted for rice in 2017 is expected to total 2.62 million acres, 524,000 less than in 2016, and back at the level planted in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service's Prospective Plantings report released today.  Planted acreage is forecast significantly lower for four of the six major rice-producing states with California almost unchanged at 539,000 acres and Louisiana down just eight percent to 400,000 acres.  Mississippi, which saw the largest percentage increase in 2016 (47 percent), will see the largest percentage decrease this year, down 38 percent to 120,000 acres.

    Long-grain, representing 73 percent of the total rice acreage, is expected to be 533,000 acres less than last year, with 360,000 of those acres being lost in Arkansas, the top rice producing state.  Medium-grain, now 25 percent of the total rice acreage, is projected to be up 1,000 acres to 666,000 - 72 percent of which is in California.  Area planted for all short-grain varieties, representing just two percent of production, is anticipated to be up 19 percent from last year's total.

    USA Rice Farmers Chairman and Missouri farmer Blake Gerard said, "With weak prices and uncertainty in our overseas markets, this dip in planting intentions is not very surprising. Here in Missouri, planting intentions are still somewhat in flux, but very soon the market and weather conditions are going to help solidify our decisions for the coming year."

    The USDA report is based on information supplied to USDA by growers, and though generally accurate within 5 percent, actual planted acres could vary.  The Rice Acreage Report, based on actual planted acres, will be published at the end of June.

  • Central Louisiana Rice Growers Association (CenLa) Receives Industry Update

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 21, 2017
    Louisiana rice harvest
    CenLa-Mtg,-LA-harvest
    BUNKIE, LA – In the midst of rice planting, growers from four parishes in central Louisiana took time to come together Monday night to receive reports on efforts to address issues that impact their industry.   Michael Klein, USA Rice vice president of marketing, communications and domestic promotion, addressed the major changes happening in Washington and what they will mean for rice.  He noted that there are still many appointments to be made by the President and confirmed by the Senate, including Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue who many believe will be good for rice.  Klein mentioned agriculture’s and especially rice’s efforts to remind the Trump Administration of the importance of trade to ag and that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is actually a success story for rice, so any adjustments to the deal need to preserve what works for the U.S. industry.

    Klein also reported on the USA Rice Domestic Promotion team’s current activities to raise awareness and increase usage of U.S.-grown rice with a focus on foodservice.  He further highlighted USA Rice’s work to keep members informed about industry issues and the USA Rice Council’s use of state promotion funds through the organization’s daily e-newsletter, the USA Rice Daily, and the hard copy tabloid, the USA Rice Whole Grain, which is published three times a year.

    Dr. Carrie Castille, USA Rice contractor, briefed CenLa members on the outlook for the upcoming Louisiana legislative session and possible issues that could impact agriculture.  She brought attendees up to speed on ongoing efforts of Governor John Bel Edwards and Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain to secure additional disaster relief for the spring and summer floods that caused damage from Shreveport to Baton Rouge to Lake Charles.  Castille said, “We will be monitoring in-state legislative activities daily and working hard to make sure our decision makers understand your concerns and the overall importance of the rice industry to the state.”

    Also addressing the group was DU Rice Stewardship Coordinator Kyle Soileau who reported on the recently approved USA Rice Mid-South Graduated Water Stewardship Program, a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awarded through its USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership.  Soileau encouraged growers to apply for available cost-sharing conservation payments, noting that signup for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) portion would begin this fall and for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) portion in 2018.
  • Mark Your Calendar: Rice Industry Meetings Scheduled Next Week

    by Deborah Willenborg | Feb 03, 2017
    What's in store for 2017
    Blue-Sky-Rice
    KINDER, LA – Louisiana and Southeast Arkansas rice industry stakeholders will receive the latest information on issues impacting the industry in series of meetings scheduled next week.
     
    The Annual Joint Membership meeting of the Louisiana Rice Council and the Louisiana Rice Growers Association will be held on Tuesday, February 7, at the Grand Marais Center, 919 North Lake Arthur Avenue, Jennings, LA 70546.  A reception hosted by Louisiana Rice Political Action Committee and a trade show begins at 4 p.m. with the meeting program following at 5:45 p.m.  Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards will be the featured speaker and dinner will be served.  In addition to an up-to-the-minute report by USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward on what the changes in Washington, DC, will mean to rice, Michael Klein, USA Rice vice president of marketing and communications, will highlight promotion activities in the domestic market.  

    On Wednesday, February 8, the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association hold their annual rice forum at 9:00 a.m. at the Rayville Civic Center, Rayville, LA.  In addition to receiving the latest rice production recommendations from LSU AgCenter scientists, USA Rice staff will repeat the reports presented in Jennings the day before.  The forum begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. and ends with lunch.  For more information, contact Keith Collins, (318) 728-3216.

    A Southeast Arkansas regional rice meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on February 8, at the Delta Men’s Association Building, Highway 65 (north of Eudora), Eudora, AR 71640.  USA Rice will repeat reports given in Rayville earlier that day.  The meeting will conclude with lunch.  For more information, contact Justin Towery, (870) 510-0208.

  • Rice Featured at North Louisiana Ag Expo for 35th Consecutive Year

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 17, 2017
    They've got all the rice answers (from left):
    Charles Precht, Jr.; Paul Johnson; Eric Unkel;
    Mary Jemison; and Jimmy Hoppe.
    2017 LA-Ag-Expo-Booth
    WEST MONROE, LA – Nearly 11,000 people attended the 35th annual North Louisiana AgExpo here on January 13-14.  Visitors to the Louisiana Rice Council (LARC) booth received sample bags of Louisiana-grown rice, provided by the Louisiana Rice Growers Association, for correctly answering questions about rice.  Attendees also enjoyed a cup of red beans and rice, courtesy of the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association, and USA Rice staff distributed recipe brochures, nutrition information, and rice-facts sheets.  

    LARC members President Eric Unkel, Vice President Charles Precht, Jr., Paul Johnson, and Jimmy Hoppe manned the booth with the assistance of USA Rice field staff Mary and Randy Jemison.

    Jimmy Hoppe noted that the Louisiana Rice Council has promoted U.S.-grown rice every year since the beginning of the exposition.  “I was in my third year as president of the Louisiana Rice Council when the show began,” said Hoppe.  “Throughout the years we have reached hundreds of thousands of people with the U.S. rice message.”

    The Expo was established by the North Louisiana Agribusiness Council to educate citizens about the regional and state impact of agriculture.

  • Governor to Headline Louisiana Rice State Meeting

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 09, 2017
    Governor John Bel Edwards
    LA-Gov.-John-Bel-Edwards
    JENNINGS, LA – Governor John Bel Edwards will be the featured speaker at the Louisiana Rice Council (LARC) and the Louisiana Rice Growers Association (LARGA) annual joint membership meeting on February 7.  

    The meeting of the state’s two largest grower organizations will be held at the Grande Marais Center here, and opens at 4 p.m. with a reception hosted by the Louisiana Rice Political Action Committee and a trade show devoted exclusively to rice-related equipment, technology, products, and services.  The meeting program follows at 5:45 p.m.  Dinner will be served.

    “We are greatly honored that the Governor has accepted our invitation,” said Michael Fruge, LARGA president who farms in St. Landry Parish.  “Our members are anxious to hear his vision for the state, specifically as it relates to agriculture.”

    “We are proud of our industry and are excited to have the Governor become more personally acquainted with its stakeholders,” said Eric Unkel, a farmer from Allen Parish and LARC president.  

    The meeting provides an annual report to rice farmers on programs funded by the Louisiana rice promotion check-off as well as timely information on other important issues.

    The word of the year last year was “change” and USA Rice staff will discuss what the change in Washington is going to mean for rice.  There also will be reports on domestic and international promotion activities.

    Dinner will be provided courtesy of Falcon Rice Mill and Louisiana Rice Mill of Crowley, Farmers Rice Mill of Lake Charles, and Kennedy Rice Mill of Mer Rouge.
     
    USA Rice also will participate in the Northeast Louisiana Rice Growers Association Rice Forum on February 8.  The meeting begins at 9:00 a.m. at the Rayville Civic Center, 817 Louisa Street, Rayville, LA 71269.
  • Yellow Rails and Rice Festival Delivers for Birders

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 07, 2016
    Need that picture of you
    2016-YRR-Festival
    THORNWELL, LA – One hundred and twenty-seven bird enthusiasts from 27 states, and Australia and Canada gathered here in the Yellow Rail Capital of the World November 1-5 for the eighth annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival.  The festival brings birders together with rice growers to highlight the role of Louisiana’s working wetlands in bird conservation while providing participants a unique venue to view the elusive Yellow Rail.

    On Thursday enthusiasm quickly turned to frustration when festival organizer and rice farmer Kevin Berken’s combine suffered major mechanical damage during a preliminary pass around the field.  Harvest operations were temporarily suspended until neighboring farmer Paul Johnson, a member of the 2015 Rice Leadership Development program, came to the rescue with a backup combine.  Despite the delay, patience paid off as 30 Yellow Rails were sighted that day.

    Although the Yellow Rail is fairly widespread it is rarely seen so bird enthusiasts welcome the opportunity to catch sight of the migrating Rails as they arrive in southern Louisiana at the same time the ratoon rice crop is being harvested.

    Berken said, “What started out as a two-day event in 2009 has grown as folks take advantage of being in the heart of Cajun Country in Louisiana’s southwest prairie region.  It’s an area known for rich history and culture, not to mention mouth-watering regional cuisine, and this festival has added great birding to the list of local attractions.”

    USA Rice is one of 50 organizations that sponsor the festival.  The Louisiana Rice Growers Association provided gift bags of Louisiana-grown rice to festival participants. 

  • Chef de Riz Named at International Rice Festival

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 26, 2016
    Paying homage to the Chef de Riz
    2016-Chef-de-Riz-Joshua-Dietz
    CROWLEY, LA – Despite major flooding that inundated much of rice country in August and threatened cancellation of this year’s Rice and Creole Cookery, the contest proceeded as scheduled last Friday and was a huge success.  One hundred and forty-nine dishes were entered in the cook-off held at the 80th Annual International Rice Festival.  Joshia Dietz of Lafayette claimed the title of Chef de Riz (Cooker of Rice).

    Overall winners from the rice-dish categories included:  Ian McElwee, children’s division; Kullen Mouton of Branch, intermediate division and Junior Chef winner; Anna Esquivel, teen division; and Blake Vidrine of Crowley, adult division.  

    “The summer rains caused extensive damage to the facility where we hold the contest and destroyed many of our files we use to organize the event,” said Letha Vincent, contest organizer.  “However, with the support of the festival board of directors and the Jeff Davis Parish Volunteers for Family and Community Club, we were able to pull it together again this year and even double the amount of entries.”
  • Louisiana Lawmakers Hear Importance of the Rice Industry

    by Michael Klein | Oct 07, 2016
    Eager to learn
    LA Rice Industry Educates State Lawmakers on Importance of Rice Industry
    CROWLEY, LA -- Members of the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committees met this week at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station to learn about the Louisiana rice industry.  USA Rice members Jackie Loewer, John Owen, Richard Fontenot, and John Morgan spoke on behalf of the industry and gave presentations on Louisiana rice production, research, promotion, milling, and economic impact.  Representatives from the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Rice Mill, Falcon Rice Mill, Kennedy Rice Dryer, and Louisiana Farm Bureau were also in attendance.


    The goal of the meeting was to educate lawmakers on the importance of all sectors of the Louisiana rice industry.  Many of the committee members have rice in their districts and were impressed by the outstanding research and promotion efforts of the Louisiana rice industry, from farm to fork.  During introductions, members spoke about agriculture in their districts and expressed their appreciation of the Louisiana culinary staple, "rice and gravy."

    Louisiana Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) acknowledged the importance of the Rice Research Station and expressed his desire to see what committee members can do to assist the rice industry on the state and federal level.  Thompson visited Cuba this year and hopes the embargo with Cuba will eventually be lifted.  He also said, “we need Washington to be very diligent in dealing with China and other countries that are possible competitors in global rice markets."

    Richard Fontenot, a rice farmer from Ville Platte, educated committee members on the different production methods employed on the more than 400,000 acres of rice in Louisiana.  He emphasized that water is the key to controlling weeds in rice production and discussed how farmers are the state's best conservationists, but also reminded them, "no water, no rice."  Senator Gerald Long (R-Winnfield), former chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, acknowledged the importance and increased participation in the Louisiana Master Farmer Program as a tool to help farmers implement best management practices.

    In his presentation, John Morgan, vice president of Louisiana Rice Mill, emphasized that "rice is the original economic engine of southwest Louisiana."  He also explained the steps in the milling process and how southwest cities like Crowley's founding, growth, and decline can be directly correlated with the health and size of the rice industry.

    "Processing rough rice into finished product locally adds critical value to the economic health of Crowley, Acadia Parish, Southwest Louisiana, the entire state, and ultimately the U.S.," Morgan said.  “Because of the value added aspect of the state's processors, the rice industry's economic impact to the state's economy is doubled.”

    John Owen, from Rayville, reported on the benefit of rice promotion activities and how these efforts expand the markets for Louisiana rice.  He said, "Rice promotion programs have opened new markets for us, and without the rice checkoff program, existing markets will close and new ones will not be cultivated.”

    USA Rice staff helped organize the meeting.  Committee Members encouraged the Louisiana rice industry to continue their great work and keep them informed.

  • 2016 Louisiana Rice Farmer of the Year Announced

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 03, 2016
    Donald Leonards
    Donald-Leonards,-2016-IRF-Farmer-of-the-Year
    CROWLEY, LA – The International Rice Festival named Donald A. Leonards the 2016 Farmer of the Year.  Leonards, a fourth generation farmer, was born and raised on a rice farm just north of Crowley and will be recognized during this year’s festival here, October 20-23.

    Leonards started helping out his father by driving trucks and carts as soon as he was able to reach the clutch.  After teaching him the family’s approach to farming his dad encouraged him to work with neighboring farmers to broaden his working knowledge, which Leonards did for several summers.

    In 1994, Leonards graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) with a degree in Agriculture Business.  While in college, he completed an internship with Pioneer Seed Company working with farmers and seed dealers throughout Louisiana.  Today he farms more than 1,400 acres split between crawfish and rice.

    “Just like with any job there are challenges,” said Leonards.  “Farming is an occupation built on faith and hard work.  Every day is a new adventure.  If it’s in your blood, it runs deep.  It’s what I love.  It might sound crazy, but when rice is growing, there’s a certain smell.  There’s nothing like it.”

    Leonards is a member the Acadia Parish Rice Growers Association, Louisiana Rice Growers Association, Acadia Parish Farm Bureau, Louisiana Farm Bureau, and the U.S. Rice Federation, and has served on the Acadia Parish Rice and Soybean Advisory Board.
  • Louisiana Rice Industry Provides Rice for Displaced Flood Victims

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 28, 2016
    Lending a hand to neighbors in need
    2016-LA Foodbank-Donation
    CROWLEY, LA – Despite suffering major damage during the recent floods, the Louisiana rice industry came together yesterday to provide much needed rice to feed citizens who were also impacted by the deluge.

    More than thirteen tons of rice were picked up here by the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. The donation was made by Louisiana Rice Mill and Falcon Rice Mill, both of Crowley; Planters Rice Mill of Abbeville, Farmers Rice Mill of Lake Charles, the Louisiana Rice Growers Association (LARGA), retired rice farmer Jimmy Hoppe, USA Rice, and USA Rice staff.  Once cooked, the gift will provide more than 300,000 half-cup servings.

    “Our farmers have just completed a very difficult harvest season and have suffered great economic loss, but they realize that this flood also impacted our fellow citizens and are happy to share our rice with those in need,” said Michael Fruge, president of LARGA.

    In addition to contributing rice, Falcon Rice Mill packaged the donated rice from all sources and Farmers Rice Mill provided, at cost, the rice that was purchased for donation by LARGA, Hoppe, and USA Rice and its staff.

    "The donation from the Louisiana Rice Industry has tremendous impact for us because it truly is a staple of Louisiana culture and of a Louisiana diet," said Michael Manning, president and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.  "In light of the recent flooding and the destruction to our community as well as our facility, this donation of rice is a great non-perishable item for us to distribute to those most in need.”

    The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to feed the hungry in Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes by providing food and educational outreach through more than 115 faith-based and community partners.  In 2015, the Food Bank distributed more than 8.7 million meals to those in need across 11 parishes.
  • Cal-Cam Rice Growers Celebrate National Rice Month

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 21, 2016
    Consumer Science students cook their way
    through National Rice Month
    Cal-Cam-NRM-Cookoff-Contestants
    LAKE CHARLES, LA – Yesterday, the Calcasieu-Cameron Rice Growers Association sponsored its 19th annual National Rice Month Cook-Off followed by a luncheon hosted by the Port of Lake Charles.  

    Sixteen Family and Consumer Science students from area middle and high schools competed in the cook-off.  Each participant received an electric rice cooker from Farmers Rice Mill here, and the Louisiana Rice Growers Association provided the contestants with a one-pound bag of Louisiana-grown Jasmine rice.

    “Although our growers are just coming off one of the most challenging harvests in memory because of the floods and rain, we are always excited to see young folks interested in rice and it’s place on the menu,” said Adam Habetz, president of the Cal-Cam RGA.

    Kiera Welker of S.J. Welsh Middle School took first place with her Shrimp Rice Patties with Gravy.  Second place went to Rachael McVey of Iowa High School for Crawfish Dressing, and third place to Makayla Hodge of South Beauregard High School for Seafood Casserole.  Evie Talbert Moss of Bluff Middle School won “Heart Healthy” recognition for her Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya.
  • Louisiana Rice Mills Join Efforts to Feed Flood Victims

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 01, 2016
    Volunteers at the ready
    St--John-The-Baptist--Feeds-Flood-Victims
    ZACHARY, LA – Louisiana rice millers are once again stepping up to provide much needed rice to feed citizens who had to evacuate their homes due to last month’s weather disaster.  Many people displaced by the recent floods are having basic needs met by thousands of individuals through volunteer and nonprofit organizations.  One example is members of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church partnering with members of First Baptist Church, both of Zachary, Louisiana, to feed displaced area residents.

    Their effort was initiated within days of record-breaking rains that inundated much of south Louisiana, and the feeding continues today.  Falcon Rice Mill and Louisiana Rice Mill have provided 800 pounds of rice to the churches for their feeding programs.  

    Dr. Dearl Sanders, LSU AgCenter emeritus professor and feeding program volunteer, said, “Many of the affected residents of Zachary have returned to their homes under FEMA’s Shelter in Place program.  However, with homes gutted and all contents, including stoves, destroyed, they have no means to prepare meals.  So our churches have partnered to prepare approximately 200 meals twice daily, seven day a week.”

    Sanders continued, “Everybody in Louisiana eats rice and you can feed a lot of people with 800 pounds.  I want to thank Falcon Rice Mill and Louisiana Rice Mill for their generous donation.”
  • Disaster Assistance Options for Louisiana Rice Producers

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 25, 2016
    Update from LA: Trying to cut rice with 12 inches of water in the field (photo credit: Paul Johnson)
    LA--trying-to-cut-rice-with-12-inches-of-water-in-field
    BATON ROUGE, LA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) county emergency boards are currently working with interested parties such as Louisiana rice growers, the LSU AgCenter, and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to assess damages in the field.  These reports will be used as part of the request to USDA for Secretarial Disaster Designation.

    Carrie Castille, with Louisiana Rice, explained that "these assessments are critical in providing much needed information to administer disaster assistance."  

    Once USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack formally declares a natural disaster for the requested parishes, benefits, in addition to crop insurance and Agriculture Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage, will be made available.  Those benefits would include the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Emergency Loan Program to provide loans for producers to recover and rebuild from production and physical losses, and the Disaster Set-Aside Program to provide those producers with existing FSA loans, who are unable to make scheduled payments, the ability to defer up to one full year’s payment to the end of the loan.

    Castille said, “USA Rice is working with the Louisiana Congressional delegation to explore options for additional disaster assistance to aid all residents affected by the storms.  We’re identifying all opportunities to provide this much needed assistance and will certainly know more about the options available to producers once the full scope of the damage has been assessed.”

    USDA is encouraging producers to document all costs associated with the damages, including photo documentation, and to make physical and digital copies of all records to ensure farms have the best chances of benefiting from the aid programs available.

    For immediate needs, producers are asked to reach out to their insurance agents, other USDA service centers, and bankers before making major decisions or financial commitments following the disaster.

    USA Rice will continue to provide updates and disaster assistance information as it becomes available.
  • Louisiana Requests Federal Disaster Declaration

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 24, 2016
    Flooded farm bins (photo credit: LSU AgCenter)
    Flooded-Farm-Bins-LSU-AgCenter
    KAPLAN, LA – At an emergency response meeting at Christian and Julie Richard's farm yesterday, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Mike Strain announced that he had requested a Secretarial Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would trigger critical federal disaster assistance programs.  Strain said that more than 28 parishes are affected by the flooding and the recent Presidential Disaster Declaration does not cover them all.

    Craig McCain, USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) state executive director, encouraged producers to visit their local FSA office as soon as possible and have a face-to-face meeting with staff to determine options for mitigating losses from the storms.  McCain went on to describe the rain event as "a hurricane without the wind and storm surge, but with the same devastating impact” and said that this is the "first test of the 2014 Farm Bill."

    The Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter continues to assess agriculture damage, including impact to the rice ratoon and crawfish crops.  One Vermilion farmer noted that crawfish are already coming out of their burrows and being dispersed by the flood waters, which does not bode well for the upcoming season.  

    Dr. Kurt Guidry, agriculture economics and agribusiness professor with the LSU AgCenter, said "we won't know until next year what our losses are for crawfish" and that "weather conditions for the next 14 to 21 days will have just as much of an impact as the last couple of weeks."

    Prior to the Kaplan meeting, attended by nearly 150 farmers, one Jeff Davis Parish grower summed up the situation he and many of his neighbors are facing by pointing out that he has suffered damage to a significant portion of his first rice crop, lost all of his ratoon crop, all of his soybeans, and is very concerned that his crawfish production will be devastated.
  • Acadia Parish Holds Emergency Response Meeting

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 19, 2016
    Remaining calm despite the storms
    LA-Emergency-Mtg-in-Acadia
    CROWLEY, LA – More than 150 people attended an emergency response meeting held here today to update farmers on recovery efforts from the catastrophic flood that has devastated Louisiana, and to provide information on local, state, and federal resources available to the business and agricultural communities.  

    Acadia Parish officials were joined by U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, Congressman Charles Boustany, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, Louisiana State Senator Dan Morrish, State Representatives Jack Montoucet and Phillip DeVillier, and staff from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

    Reports from rice farmers across the affected area are grim.  John E. Earles farms in Avoyelles Parish and said that water east of Highway 49 remains high.  He estimates at least 80 percent of the rice crop in central Louisiana (Avoyelles and Rapides Parishes) is unharvested.

    In Evangeline Parish, Michael Fruge says water levels have receded, but daily rains are keeping growers from harvesting.  He was able to cut rice for less than an hour yesterday and notes that in some instances heavy rains have inundated crops a second time.

    Kevin Berken, a rice farmer in Southern Jeff Davis Parish, reports that the Mermentau River crested in Lake Arthur yesterday.  Berken was able to keep 90 percent of his rice from going under by using pump-off systems and says it’s too early to determine the impact on yields and quality.  He and his neighbors are harvesting between showers, but wet conditions are reducing harvesting efficiency.  
     
    USA Rice is working with universities, decision-makers, and local, state, and federal agencies to help assess the damage to the crop, as well as assisting with coordination of the recovery efforts in the field.  Staff is attending meetings in affected parishes, and has provided updates to FEMA.

    Acting U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse assured USA Rice staff in the state that, "USDA stands ready to assist Louisiana growers, landowners, and agribusinesses as they recover from this terrible event."  Scuse also encouraged growers to visit their local offices as soon as possible to learn more about available USDA programs.

    At today’s meeting Commissioner Strain said, "it will take a few weeks before we understand the full damage of the rains."  He went on to stress the importance of keeping records and photographs to expedite assistance.

    Congressman Charles Boustany also emphasized the need for accurate assessments with documentation for affected acres and requested regular updates from USA Rice.

    “The industry here still faces challenges to harvesting the remaining crop,” said Randy Jemison, Louisiana field services director for USA Rice.  “We are proud of our growers, mills, and allied industries who have shown perseverance and resilience in the face of this disaster and I know we will work to help the Louisiana rice industry move forward from this awful event.”

  • Initial Reports on Impact of Flooding on Rice Crop in Southern Louisiana

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 16, 2016
    The view Saturday from atop Allen McClain's
    grain bins south of Abbeville.
    2016-LA-Flood,-Allen-McClain-farm
    BATON ROUGE, LA -- More than 20 inches of rain have fallen in southwest Louisiana since last week, and with more on the way, the full scope of damage due to historic flooding in the area won't become clear until the water recedes.

    "We're still in the stabilization and rescue mode now," said Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.  "Once the water recedes we'll begin doing analysis.  The feds will join us with teams on the ground doing assessments."

    As of noon today, the following parishes are included on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Louisiana disaster declaration:  Acadia, Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberia, Lafayette, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tangipahoa, and Vermilion.  Twenty-nine parishes have requested disaster declarations.

    “Estimating the value of damage to the rice crop in southwest Louisiana will not be easy since, at this point, everything seems to be constantly changing,” said Dustin Harrell, Research Agronomist & Extension Rice Specialist at Louisiana State University.

    After talking with extension agents in every affected parish, and using an average yield value of 7,100 lb/acre and an average rice price of $11 per cwt, Harrell came up with what he called “a highly speculative estimate” of approximately $14.3 million in losses for the southwest Louisiana rice crop.  This estimate does not include potential ratoon rice losses.

    Rice farmers throughout the affected areas report varying degrees of damage.  Kevin Berken, from Lake Arthur, is pumping water off his rice and remains optimistic that his crop will be saved, although he thinks his second crop is "toast or teal [duck] food.”

    Fred Zaunbrecher estimated “between 18-20 inches of rain” has fallen at his farm in Duson.  “My brother had to evacuate his home, and my son and his buddies have been running rescue missions in south Lafayette with their gator tail boat.”

    Donald Berken, from Welsh, relayed a conversation with Congressman Charles Boustany’s staff who said the Army Corp of Engineers responsible for lock operations had given assurances that all of the locks in the area are under constant monitoring but cannot remain open continuously due to tidal activity.  Berken adds, “My area went through a similar event in May of 1980.  This appears to be as bad if not worse due to more widespread rain.”

    “We were having average yield, some high some low, with good quality,” said Jackie Loewer, from Branch.  “Now we will have less than average yield because of down conditions and lower quality because of sprouted rice.”
    It has been estimated that about 80 percent of the southwest Louisiana crop had been harvested prior to the flooding, but that of the 20 percent still in the field, 20 percent of that would likely be lost due to the flooding.

    None of the rice mills in the state have reported flood-related disruption, although transportation for, and safety of, employees is obviously a top concern according to Robert Trahan, ​director of sales and business development at Falcon Rice Mill in Crowley, and chairman of the USA Rice Millers’ Association.

    USA Rice’s Randy Jemison and Carrie Castille were the only agriculture commodity representatives actively participating in a FEMA National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) coordination call today.  They shared the initial impact of the flooding on the rice industry and will remain in contact with that group.

    USA Rice will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as they are reported.