• 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.

  • Western Rice Belt Production Conference and Texas Rice Council Welcome USA Rice

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 18, 2017
    Texas rice producers watch P.F. Chang's
    Farm-to-Wok video featuring U.S. rice
    2017 TX-Rice-Conference
    EL CAMPO, TX – More than 200 Texas rice producers packed the Civic Center here today for the annual Western Rice Belt Production Conference and Texas Rice Council Meetings to hear research and association updates.

    USA Rice Vice President of Marketing, Communications, & Domestic Promotion Michael Klein provided an overview of USA Rice issue areas and then walked the crowd through several highlights, including what the Trump Administration may mean for rice and what USA Rice is doing to promote U.S. rice in key international markets and at home.

    Klein also shared the recent successes of USA Rice’s unique conservation and sustainability partnership with Ducks Unlimited that has resulted in $25 million in federal funding for rice conservation.

    “These programs have put more than one million dollars directly in the pockets of Texas rice farmers through the EQIP and CSP programs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service,” Klein said.  “And just last month our partnership was awarded $15 million, more than half of which is going to the Lower Colorado River Authority to help them build a new reservoir in Eagle Lake, Texas, that will supply water to more than 50,000 rice acres in Colorado, Matagorda, and Wharton Counties.”

    Texas Rice farmer and chairman of US Rice Producers Tommy Turner also spoke, thanking the crowd for their support.  He shared his thoughts that much work remains to be done on quality issues, and went on to praise the efforts of his organization to promote rough rice exports, particularly through the South Louisiana Rail Facility.

    Other speakers included Dr. Muthu Bagvathiannan and Dr. Shane Zhou of Texas A&M, Texas Department of Agriculture Pesticide Inspector Melissa Barton, and Dr. Mo Way and Dr. Joe Outlaw from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, among others.
  • Texas Rice Festival Celebrates Harvest

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 14, 2016
    When it comes to rice,
    Karen Reneau has all the answers
    WINNIE, TX – There was something for everyone who attended the 47th annual Texas Rice Festival here late last month as the four-day event offers a myriad of activities including:  educational booths, carnival rides, parades, pageants, craft shows, cooking contests, music performances, local food, and much more.

    Visitors to the Rice Education Tent received recipe brochures, educational information, rice crispy treats, and colored pencils for kids, all provided by USA Rice.  Attendees also had the chance to spin the rice wheel to test their knowledge about U.S.-grown rice.

    “My great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all rice farmers, and my husband, Charlie, and our son, Will, are still farming rice today,” said Karen Reneau, Texas Rice Festival volunteer stationed at the Rice Education Tent.  “I’m a retired teacher and elementary school principal, so education is a passion of mine, and the rice festival gives me the opportunity to teach people of all ages about the locally-grown rice – another passion of mine.”   

    Reneau adds that since her retirement as an educator, she’s been helping out on the farm – driving tractors, working at the rice dryers, and in the crawfish fields.  “I guess I’m not retired after all, but I don't really look at the farming work as a job, because I get to work with my family each day.”

    The festival was created in 1969 to honor rice farming, a major economic contributor to the economy of southeast Texas. 

  • Rice Reigns in Eagle Lake

    by Colleen Klem | Jun 29, 2016
    Dr. Zhou (Texas A&M AgriLife plant pathologist) shares results from his research plots
    GA- Rice Reigns in Eagle Lake 160629 

    EAGLE LAKE, TX – Yesterday, hundreds of Texas rice farmers gathered here for several meetings that led up to the 42nd Annual Rice Field Day hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension at the David R. Wintermann Rice Research Station.

    The Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group held their semi-annual Board of Directors meeting to handle regular business items along with reports from USA Rice and the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program projects in Texas.

    Following the meeting, producers headed down the road for the Texas Rice Producers meeting, the group that oversees the collection, assessment, and distribution of check- off funds for the state. New board members were sworn in and officers were elected including Scott Savage, a Bay City farmer and the group’s new chairman.

    Dodging a string of thunderstorms, the crowd of rice producers then toured the Wintermann Rice Research Station to learn about a variety of projects that focused on herbicide resistance, pest management, and breeding varieties. The field day wrapped up with the traditional barbecue dinner and presentations by the event sponsors, USA Rice and the U.S. Rice Producers Association.

    At the evening program, Peter Bachmann, USA Rice manager of government affairs, provided an update on the state of the rice economy, saying, “While U.S. and global commodity prices continue on a downward trend, USA Rice is working to remedy the situation for rice domestically by providing access to large, reliable rice markets, providing conservation financial assistance, and increasing rice programmed in U.S. international food aid shipments.”

    Bachmann reminded producers to “remember that rice is considered ‘the best house in a bad neighborhood’ because of the farm safety net we helped put in place in the 2014 Farm Bill. It’s working the way it was designed to work because of USA Rice’s footprint in Washington.”

    Texas rice farmer and member of the USA Rice Farmers Board of Directors Linda Raun deemed the day’s meetings a success.  “We’re really happy to have had the turn out that we did, especially a number of younger members showing interest in becoming leaders of our organizations,” she said.  “With excess water back in our region, a more than 20 percent increase in our rice acreage, and the promise of the Cuban market on the horizon, we’re in a good place to expand our reach.

    Raun continued, “The Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group is ramping up fundraising efforts and starting to put together a committee to look at our Farm Bill positions. It’s important that we assess the programs rice has available to us, even the ones that seem to be working, like Price Loss Coverage, but especially those like crop insurance that still have a way to go to be truly effective for our operations.”

    The second Texas rice field day, hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research, is scheduled for July 14 at the Beaumont Rice Research Station. 

  • Texas Now Accepting National Rice RCPP EQIP Applications

    by Lee Brinckley | Mar 01, 2016
    Ken Danklefs
    Ken Danklefs
    TEMPLE, TX – The USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited (DU) conservation and sustainability project, Sustaining the Future of Rice, takes a big step forward today with the announcement that the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas has begun accepting Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) applications for the project.

    The National Rice Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project, funded by NRCS, was awarded $10 million in 2015 and is coordinated by USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited, and more than forty additional partners and sponsors.  

    The goal is to implement targeted conservation practices on working ricelands in all six rice-growing states using the EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  The targeted application of practices aims to address three related natural resource opportunities in rice:  water quantity, water quality, and wetland habitat.

    Texas is the fifth rice-growing state to accept EQIP applications through the Rice Stewardship Partnership’s RCPP project.

    Ken Danklefs, rice farmer and Texas representative for USA Rice on the Stewardship Partnership shared his enthusiasm, “The Stewardship Partnership is bringing Texas $1 million to be used toward implementing CSP and EQIP contracts.  Houston-based American Rice, Inc. graciously contributed an additional $50,000 to supplement USA Rice’s efforts in Texas and that support from millers says a lot about our industry.”

    Danklefs added, “I’m encouraging our rice farmers to submit EQIP applications under the National Rice project.  Water quantity is the top concern and practices such as underground pipelines on groundwater wells are high priority, followed by irrigation land levelling, water control structures, and renovation of irrigation pumping plants.  If you’re planning on doing some of these practices on your operation already or you’re on the fence about it, this is a perfect opportunity to get some help from the industry and USDA.”

    Applications will be accepted through March 18 at local NRCS offices in the following Texas counties:  Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Jackson, Jefferson, Lavaca, Liberty, Matagorda, Waller, and Wharton.

  • USA Rice Continues to Push for Open Trade with Cuba

    by Lee Brinckley | Feb 10, 2016
    Click here to hear thoughts on Cuba and rice from Congressmen Abraham, Crawford, and Poe.
    WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba celebrated their one-year anniversary here today with a renewed call for action to lift the embargo between the United States and Cuba, and to ease the way for trade for U.S. agricultural products.

    The press conference featured keynote remarks from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, who headlined the Coalition kick-off last year and was described as “the first Administration official to publicly vocalize support for the lifting of the embargo, especially for agricultural products.”

    Vilsack spoke about the potential importance of the market, and the value of being able to use promotion check-off dollars in Cuba, and the need to have USDA officials on the ground in Cuba.

    He said, “Until we have improved relations, we are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to accessing the Cuban market.  We need people on the ground in Cuba to talk about our products’ quality, quantity, and stability of supply.”

    Of course USA Rice has existing relationships there having participated in the Havana Trade Fair since the 1990’s, and meeting with ALIMPORT, the government agency that coordinates all overseas purchases and authorizes the import of products to Cuba, as recently as last fall.

    Cuban Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas was interviewed at the press conference and several Members of Congress were also in attendance, including rice state legislators Rick Crawford (R-AR), Ted Poe (R-TX), and Ralph Abraham (R-LA).

    Crawford told the crowd, “We are punishing ourselves [with this embargo].  Now is the time to take action.”  Poe called for Congress to “lift the financial restrictions…to allow American banks to take the risk and get American agriculture products overseas.”  And Abraham emphasized the proximity of U.S. infrastructure and products, saying, “With our shipping, trucking, and ancillary services, we can get American products to Cuba in 36 hours.”

    Prior to the press conference, Vilsack met privately with representatives from the Coalition.  Ben Noble, executive director of Arkansas Rice, thanked the Secretary for his support on this issue.  Noble also represented USA Rice on a panel with other commodity groups discussing the effects the embargo has had on agriculture.  He said, “When the embargo was put in place there were decades where there were no rice sales to Cuba.  Back in 2000 when the law was changed to allow cash sales, we saw an increase in activity.  Unfortunately, that opportunity was shut down and we lost one of our top export markets.”

    He concluded, “USA Rice continues to support all legislative efforts to lift the trade embargo with Cuba that will allow for free and unfettered trade.”
  • Field Day Features USA Rice Presentations

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 02, 2015
     Rice farmer Ray Stoesser (l) in talks with USA Rice's Ben Mosely
    EAGLE LAKE, TX -- USA Rice staff Betsy Ward and Ben Mosely addressed Texas farmers at the dinner and program following the Eagle Lake Rice Field Day this week. 
    Ward gave an overview of USA Rice work on behalf of rice farmers and specifically addressed trade issues critical to the rice industry like the TPP negotiations, Iraq, China, and domestic and international promotion initiatives. 
    Mosely outlined USA Rice's work with Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on implementation of the farm bill, and plans to submit a pre-proposal next week for a small reservoir here as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  The project will be executed in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited and the Lower Colorado River Authority, among several other partners, as a way to reduce groundwater usage on rice fields and in managed waterfowl habitat.
    "Visiting farmers helps us develop our message to Congress and federal agencies," said Ward.  "Rice is a small commodity and our goal is to speak to policymakers and influencers with one voice so that the industry delivers a strong, clear message.  We want to keep fighting above our weight class for farmers in Texas and across the rice states."
    Ward and Mosely also answered questions on recent changes to farm policy and trade from members of the Texas Rice Producers' Legislative Group and the Texas Rice Producers' Board and heard from both groups about the important issues on the ground.