• Ag Secretary Perdue Gets First-Hand Look at Arkansas Flood Damage

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 08, 2017
    Secretary Perdue flanked by Governor Hutchinson (left) and Congressman Crawford (right)
    LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS -- Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation, including Senator John Boozman and Congressmen French Hill, Steve Womack, and Rick Crawford toured the devastation around northeast Arkansas from the air yesterday.      

    A news conference was held after Sunday’s flyover tour at the State Police Hangar at TAC Air here.

    Governor Hutchinson thanked Secretary Perdue for taking the time to survey the damage and listen to the needs of impacted communities and farmers.

    Senator Boozman echoed Hutchinson’s sentiment, saying, “There’s no substitute for being able to see this up close and personal so we can go back and tell our colleagues in Congress the extent of the damage.”    

    “I want the farmers in Arkansas to know that the resources of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be at their disposal,” said Perdue.  “Our people are already on the ground around the state looking and helping.  We’ll do everything in our power to make sure that your farmers can continue on, certainly crop insurance is a big part of that, and we want them to take advantage of all of the resources of the USDA.”
    Perdue continued, “From a farmer’s perspective, I’ve been there.  I know the thrill of a wonderful crop, and the despair of flooding and drought. Farmers are the most productive citizens we’ve got in this country.”

    Rich Hillman, vice president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau, thanked Perdue for making the trip to Arkansas.  “I’m a rice farmer myself,” said Hillman.  “The simple fact that you are here in our state, gives a lot of those farmers and ranchers hope today, so we appreciate it.”  

    Many farmers have been affected by the flooding in the mid-south and while the scope of damage is still to be determined, a preliminary assessment by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture puts total crop loss at $64.5 million.  Rice is the crop loss leader at $29.96 million.

    The estimate was compiled by Jarrod Hardke, extension rice agronomist, from a survey of extension agents and agronomists this week.  Among the factors taken into account are the costs of seed and herbicides already applied, equipment, and labor.

    “Obviously, we won’t know the full extent of the damage until the water recedes and farmers are able to see what’s left,” said USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely.  “With regard to disaster assistance, there isn’t much there.  The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to designate counties as disaster areas to make emergency loans available to producers suffering losses.  To be eligible for a Secretarial Disaster Declaration, the county must have a 30 percent production loss of at least one crop”  

    Mosely concluded, “As far as crop insurance goes, again, we will have to wait and see.  Everyone knows that rice is undersubscribed for crop insurance when compared to other crops.  Rice gets about one-fourth the coverage per dollar when compared to corn, in other words, a rice grower has to pay four times as much to get the same coverage as a corn grower.  For those who can afford coverage, they’ll need to work with their adjustors to navigate the new “practical to replant” rules.”
  • Arkansas Weather Update

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 03, 2017
    Aerial view of farm in Jackson County AR
    taken yesterday
    Rutledge-Farm-Aerial-View-after-2017 Flood
    Jarrod Hardke, an Extension rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, reports on flood conditions, the viability of submerged rice, and next steps for replanting and the provisos of crop insurance.
  • Storms Bring Disaster to Arkansas Rice Country

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 02, 2017
    Rice field in Jackson County on Sunday
    after 7 inches of rain
    Rice-Field-After-7-Inches-of-Rain,-J.-James farm
    LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS – The storms that started Saturday night overflowed rain gauges up and down the Arkansas Delta, and forecasts show another rain event coming through tomorrow to add to the area’s already swollen waterways.  

    Jeff Rutledge, a rice farmer in Jackson County, whose farm is located where the surging Black and White Rivers merge, said, “As of now, the only way we can get to our farm shop is by boat.  We are headed up in a plane later today to determine the scope of damage.”     

    Governor Asa Hutchinson has declared a state of emergency as the powerful storms continue to wreak havoc, particularly in the northeast part of the state, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports rivers in that area, already well above flood stage, are expected to rise on into the coming weekend.   

    “At this point, it looks like we could lose 100,000 acres of rice in the state, but that could be lowballing it as the heaviest floodwaters are due later in the week,” said Jarrod Hardke, an Extension rice agronomist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.  “Similar to the 2011 flood, the Black River is expected to exceed historic levels.  But unlike 2011 when only 45 percent of the rice had been planted, 89 percent of this year’s crop is already in the ground.  That loss on input costs will push the overall impact of this weather event even higher.  In addition, downstream areas have not realized the full impact of flooding as waterways have yet to reach their projected flood levels.”

    “The excessive rainfall hit us hard and then the lack of drainage due to flooding rivers only compounds the problem,” said Jennifer James, another rice farmer in Jackson County.  “We were off to a really good start on this crop year and Mother Nature had other plans.  In the end, it will likely be weeks before the extent of the damage and losses can accurately be determined.”  

    Assistance from the Federal government that takes the form of low interest loans from either the Small Business Administration or the Farm Service Agency at USDA requires a federal disaster declaration.  
    “At the moment, the best the rice industry can hope for is quickly receding waters, but the rain hasn’t even stopped yet,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs.  “Private crop insurance assistance, in the form of replanting or preventative planting coverage can’t begin to be calculated until June 10 – the last day of potential planting.”
  • 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.

  • Arkansas Rice Farmers Manage for Ducks and Rice

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 22, 2017
    Ryan and Mike Sullivan pulling boards and
    draining fields after completing waterfowl
    flooding practices for the RCPP.
    Photo credit: Bob Young
    Special to the USA Rice Daily from Ducks Unlimited

    BURDETTE, AR -- Mike Sullivan, who farms with his son, Ryan, in northeast Arkansas, is one of the rice producers working with USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited through the Rice Stewardship Partnership.  

    The Sullivans have participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and as part of their participation, the Sullivans flooded fields in the winter to provide habitat for waterfowl and improve water quality.  By putting boards in their water control structures in October, they captured rainfall over the winter.  That gives the sediments and nutrients in the water time to settle out before running off of the field.  When they pulled their boards to drain the fields in February, much cleaner water ran off.  In the meantime, they had tremendous use by waterfowl.  

    “I've never seen ducks east of Interstate 55 before,” Mike said.  He was skeptical about attracting ducks in that area of the county, but he was excited to call Ryan one day and tell him that a field near the home place was covered up with ducks.  

    “The public has noticed that more ducks are in the county, too,” Mike said.  Mike has people asking about his flooded fields and commenting on seeing all the ducks.  The type of water control structures called weir boxes make all the difference.  “The system that works for rice farming also works great for waterfowl,” Mike said.  

    Ryan has always been interested in conservation.  He told his dad for years they didn’t have ducks because they didn’t hold water on the fields.  He observed other areas of the county that had ducks where fields had been flooded.  “Ryan has been doing waterfowl management on a small scale, but the RCPP has allowed him to do this on a wider scale,” Mike said.  

    “I’m really appreciative of the way the DU, USA Rice, and NRCS have partnered to make this program so successful and how easy it has been to work with all the partners,” Mike said.  Mike believes he has also benefitted from working with researchers with the University of Arkansas and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at nearby Arkansas State University.  

    “We’ve pretty well turned over 1,500 to 2,000 acres of our rice farming operation for research to Dr. Michele Reba and Dr. Joe Massey at the ARS Delta Water Management Research Unit located on campus at Arkansas State,” he said.  “They’re taking small-scale research to a whole-farm approach.  Dr. Reba likes to refer to Ryan and me as her guinea pigs.  
    “We’re happy to cooperate because I think the key to what we’re trying to do is to be proactive instead of reactive,” he said.   “I went to the [Arkansas Soil and Water] Education Conference in Jonesboro, and they spent a whole day talking about how water is a finite resource, and we’ve got to figure out a way to do things differently than we have in the past.”  

    The Sullivans recognize that water conservation will become increasingly important in the years ahead.  

    “If we’re not in the forefront of this, cooperating with the researchers and helping them, we’re going to have problems,” Mike noted.  “I hate to think of Ryan having to deal with regulators telling him he has 20 inches of water, and he has to figure out a way to make it work.”  

    The Sullivans have also worked with alternate wetting and drying on their farm.  “It’s almost become comical with us because for years we told our employees they had to make sure they kept a flood on our rice fields.  So you can imagine the reaction when you tell them not to turn on the irrigation pump for 10 days.”
  • USA Rice Presents to Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 13, 2017
    USA Rice CEO Betsy Ward delivers
    annual progress report
    2017 AR-State-Mtg
    LITTLE ROCK, AR -- USA Rice staff Betsy Ward, Michael Klein, and Hugh Maginnis presented the annual USA Rice Council report to the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board (ARRPB) here last week.

    Ward provided the board with the financial report and results of the audits for all five organizations overseen by USA Rice, and also gave an update on opportunities and challenges the U.S. rice industry faces, including the impact of priorities coming out of the Trump Administration on trade, food aid, and the upcoming Farm Bill.  Klein shared highlights of recent domestic promotion activities, including chef farm and mill tours that have resulted in U.S.-grown rice being called out on restaurant menus, while Maginnis reported on international markets and programs, including an active tender in Iraq and increasing market access in markets such as Central America and Haiti.

    The ARRPB is made up of nine rice producers who are nominated by industry organizations and appointed to two-year terms by the governor.  The board is responsible for allocating Arkansas rice promotion and research check-off funds annually, and for the past 30 plus years, the ARRPB has awarded promotion funds to the USA Rice Council in recognition of the exemplary work performed by the Council on behalf of Arkansas rice farmers.

    "I appreciated the opportunity to report on work made possible by the financial resources entrusted to us by Arkansas," Ward said.  "On behalf of USA Rice, I also want to thank the Arkansas rice farmers and industry members who serve on the USA Rice Council board and on USA Rice domestic and international promotion committees.  Their participation is vital to USA Rice's member-driven process for program development and implementation."

    After the presentations on promotion results and USA Rice financials, the ARRPB approved the USA Rice Council's request for funding in the fiscal year August 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018.
  • Mark Your Calendar: Rice Industry Meetings Scheduled Next Week

    by Deborah Willenborg | Feb 03, 2017
    What's in store for 2017
    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.

  • USA Rice on the Road in Mississippi and Arkansas

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 27, 2017
    Hijinks at the USA Rice booth
    Fun-@-the-USA-Rice-Booth-at-2017 AR-State-Mtg
    CLEVELAND, MS and STUTTGART, AR – As the 2017 planting season approaches, rice state meetings are in full swing and USA Rice is on the road listening to growers and sharing planned activities and success stories.

    More than 40 growers filled the Bolivar County – Mississippi State University Extension Office to hear updates from Mississippi State Extension/Research Rice Specialist Bobby Golden who leads a talented team of researchers looking into off-target herbicide drift, planting techniques and progression trends, and other important issues.

    “We are fortunate to have a great team at Mississippi State of home-grown, world-class researchers,” said Mississippi Research and Promotion Board Chairman and Mississippi grower Marvin Cochran.  “We’ve been losing talent to agribusiness, so I’m encouraged that we now have an excellent crop of scientists working to improve rice in the Delta.”

    USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward shared her organization’s outlook for life under a Trump Administration.

    “It seems to be a bit of a mixed bag for us at the moment,” she said.  “We’re encouraged by the President’s pick for Secretary of Agriculture, and the focus on enforcement of existing trade deals is positive for us.  Of course anything that disrupts trade with our top export market, Mexico, gives us pause.”

    Ben Mosely, vice president of government affairs for USA Rice, discussed the new make up in Congress and what it’s going to mean as a new Farm Bill comes into focus and how Congress will deal with President Trump’s regulatory agenda.

    “There are 10 Democrat Senators on the Senate Ag Committee and all eyes are going to be on the seven who are up for reelection in 2018, five of whom represent states Donald Trump won,” he said.

    USA Rice Vice President of Marketing, Communications, & Domestic Promotion Michael Klein discussed the group’s newly invigorated food service program that has recently launched print and electronic advertising and monthly newsletters targeting decision makers in the sector.

    He also shared results of farm and mill tours for development chefs that has expanded the network of chefs promoting U.S. rice, and showed the promotional video PF Chang’s created to highlight U.S.-grown rice.

    “We have a great partner in PF Chang’s who are using their own resources to help promote U.S. rice, and now the Landry’s Restaurant Group and El Pollo Loco are joining their ranks,” he said.

    Today in Stuttgart, more than 300 gathered for the Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting and trade show where the current political climate, the carbon credit market, and conservation planning dominated discussions.

    Ward provided her analysis of the landscape in Washington, including the expected rise of influence of rural America.

    “Donald Trump won 76 percent of the districts with a Cracker Barrel in them and only 22 percent of the districts with a Whole Foods,” she told the crowd.  “It’s rural America that elected him, and while he is President of the entire country, there is a saying about dancing with the one that brought you.”

    Local growers Mark Isbell, Mike Sullivan, and Jim Whitaker shared their experiences with the carbon credit market and encouraged others to join their efforts to expand and communicate the sustainability message of U.S. rice.

    Amanda Mathis with USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service rounded out the programming with a practical discussion of how growers can take advantage of her agency's assistance programs.

    "Today was an important gathering for our members," said Arkansas Rice Council Chairman and grower Jeff Rutledge.  "There's a lot happening in Washington and on research fronts that affect us all and before you know it, we're all going to disappear onto our farms, so it was good to hear and interact with the speakers and exhibitors."
  • Taiwan Group Caps Week in U.S. with Cross-State Visit to Arkansas

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 08, 2016
    Windmill Rice showcases their products
    Taiwan-Group-in-AR, Windmill Rice
    JONESBORO & STUTTGART, AR -- As previously reported in the USA Rice Daily, a team from the Taiwan government and the Taiwan Rice Millers’ Association traveled to U.S. rice country last week in preparation for upcoming rice import tenders.  Following a stop in the Sacramento, California area, the delegation was in Arkansas on Thursday and Friday for visits in Jonesboro with Poinsett Rice & Grain and Windmill Rice followed by visits to the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) Field Office in Stuttgart as well as Riceland Foods, Inc., Producers’ Rice Mill, and the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center.  

    “The Taiwan team is very interested in sourcing high amylose long grain rice for use in Taiwan’s rice noodle and rice cake manufacturing industry,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings who accompanied the group.  “The discussions with the rice mills and scientists at the Dale Bumpers Center were very detailed as the visitors sought specifics on the U.S. long grain supply situation.”

    The delegation received a comprehensive briefing on inspection services for rice carried out by the Stuttgart FGIS office and the importance of FGIS’s national rice standards in determining the quality of rice in domestic and international trade.  The group also received an update on varietal development for long grain at the Dale Bumpers Center.  

    “Taiwan is an important customer for U.S. rice, and it’s important that we show them the full range of products and expertise that our industry can offer,” said Carl Brothers, chairman of USA Rice’s International Trade Policy Committee and COO of Riceland foods, Inc.

    Rice imports are heavily controlled by the Taiwan government, and imports are effectively capped at 144,720 metric tons (brown basis) per year.  The United States has a tariff rate quota of 64,634 MT (brown basis), split between direct imports by the government and imports through the private sector directly or via a Simultaneous-Buy-Sell system.
  • Arkansas Rice Industry Donates More Than 115,000 Pounds of Rice to Arkansas Rice Depot

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 29, 2016
    AR Rice Council President Jeff Rutledge
    presents donation
    LITTLE ROCK, AR -- In honor of National Rice Month, the Arkansas rice industry donated 117,000 pounds of rice to the Arkansas Food Bank today.  The donation will provide more than 1 million servings to help feed hungry families across the state.  Participating rice mills are Cormier Rice Mill of DeWitt; Windmill Rice Company of Jonesboro; Riceland Foods, Inc. of Stuttgart; Producers Rice Mill of Stuttgart; Riviana Foods of Carlisle; Southwind Rice Mill of Pine Bluff; and Specialty Rice, Inc. of Brinkley.  
    The Arkansas Food Bank is a statewide food bank that works with 600 Arkansas hunger relief programs including food pantries, school food programs, disaster relief organizations, and a statewide hunger hotline.  The donation followed Governor Asa Hutchinson's Rice Month proclamation at the State Capitol.
    Arkansas is the number one rice-producing state in the nation.  This year, Arkansas family farmers will produce over 50 percent of the nation's rice.  The Arkansas rice industry contributes more than $6 billion annually to the state's economy and employs over 25,000 Arkansans.

  • 2016-17 Miss Arkansas Rice Announced

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 29, 2016
    From left: Libby Thornhill, Madison Gibson,
    and Dawsyn Smith
    BRINKLEY, AR -- Craighead County 16-year old Madison Gibson was named Miss Arkansas Rice at the state contest last Saturday.  She is the daughter of Scott and Karie Gibson of Jonesboro.

    The first and second runner-ups were, Libby Thornhill of Cross County and Dawsyn Smith of Jackson County, respectively.

    Contestants were judged on rice promotion, rice cooking skills, and knowledge of the industry. Representatives from ten counties participated in the contest -- which has been held for 55 years.  The other contestants were Torri Dumond of Arkansas County; Kristen Lanni of Jefferson County; Chloe Griffith of Lee County; Lacy Smith of Lonoke County; Libby Wilkison of Monroe County; Alexandria Rawls of St. Francis County; and Gabriella Winkler of Woodruff County.

    Contest judges were Keith Cleek, Regional Program Associate Family and Consumer Science, Cooperative Extension Service; Helena; and Judy Riley, retired Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, El Paso.

    The goal of the Miss Arkansas Rice program is to encourage youth interest in rice cookery and rice promotion as well as to publicize the importance of the Arkansas rice industry to the state's economy.  Prizes for this year's contest were: Miss Arkansas Rice $1,000, first runner-up $600, and second runner-up $400.  Each contestant that competed in the state contest received $100.

    The Arkansas Rice Council sponsors the annual contest in cooperation with the Arkansas Farm Bureau and the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
  • Field Report: Arkansas

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 24, 2016
    There's a rice field under here somewhere!
    (photo credit: Randy Chlapecka)
    AR--Randy-Chlapecka-flooded rice-field
    MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, AR -- Growers across Arkansas and Louisiana are reeling after weeklong rains have caused flooding and created a delay for many farmers preparing for harvest.  At Florenden Farms in northeast Arkansas, Ryan Sullivan reported that over the course of a week, Mississippi County received more than 7.5 inches of steady rainfall.

    The Mississippi River, bordering Mississippi County to the east, is protected by a levee system so Sullivan reported that he and many others in the area were fortunate to have missed the flooding.  However, growers further west of Mississippi County, in areas where rivers back into thousands of acres of farmland, have experienced rising water levels and subsequent flooding that have caused setbacks for many.
    A major concern for some of those who have experienced extreme rainfall the past week is how this is going to affect the quality of the crop.  According to Sullivan, “Some growers are experiencing a rare phenomenon in which grains are sprouting from the heads of the rice stalk, creating uncertainty for how this is going to impact the milling process and the quality of the final product.”

    Sullivan reports that although he is not facing this challenge, he and other growers are behind their ideal harvest schedule.  On Monday, Sullivan and his father, Mike, began cutting rice, 7-10 days behind schedule.  Growers in the area also contend with the impending hurricane season and are eager to harvest as soon as possible to avoid the threat of more severe weather impacting their crop.

    Prior to this past week of severe rainfall, Sullivan reported that northeast Arkansas had been blessed in terms of the weather.  “It had been kind of dry the past few months and we had actually been hoping for some rain earlier in the season,” said Sullivan.  “We are still optimistic about this year’s crop despite the weather.  We have been employing a conservation technique - alternate wetting and drying (AWD) that cuts down on water use without decreasing yield. And this also is the first year we’ve planted row rice, so we’re looking forward to seeing the results of these practices.”  

    Ryan Sullivan and his father, Mike, are the operators of Florenden Farms in Mississippi County, farming 5,200 acres of rice and 8,000 acres of soybeans.

  • 2016 Arkansas Rice Expo Celebrates Largest Production Year on Record

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 11, 2016
    Producers Rice Mill CEO Keith Glover
    STUTTGART, AR – Against the backdrop of reports of rice harvest in various pockets of the state, more than 1,000 people came out for Wednesday's Arkansas Rice Expo to celebrate the rice industry and the beginning of the 2016 rice harvest.  Arkansas is expected to produce more than fifty percent of the rice grown in the United States for the second consecutive year and have the largest production year on record.

    Attendees toured research plots, heard reports on new technology for in-bin rice drying and storage, factors impacting rice milling yields, and a look at UAV (drone) capabilities for Arkansas agriculture, and participated in a myriad of family-friendly activities.  Attendees also heard insights from Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR), and Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) who started his professional career at Riceland.
    "I commend the University of Arkansas's Division of Agriculture for organizing this excellent event," said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  "Our job is to make sure there is demand both here and abroad for this new crop and I am excited about the new initiatives we are working on to help promote U.S.-grown rice, expand existing markets, and open new ones."

    In addition to attending the Rice Expo, USA Rice staff including Ward, Vice President of Marketing, Communications & Domestic Promotion Michael Klein, and Senior Director of Meetings and Member Services Jeanette Davis met with officials at Poinsett Rice, Windmill Rice, Southwind Milling Company, and visited with new USA Rice Chairman Brian King.  

    USA Rice also gave presentations at Tuesday's meeting of the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, and USA Rice Stewardship Partnership Coordinator Josh Hankins shared developments on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project with the board.

  • New State of the Art University of Arkansas Foundation Seed Facility Opens Doors

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 10, 2016
    Cutting the ribbon, from left: Dr. Glen Bathke,
    Dr. Richard Roeder, Bryan Moery, Dr. Mark Waldrip,
    Dr. Mark Cochran, Dr. Bruce Bobbitt,
    and Dr. Chuck Wilson.
    STUTTGART, AR – It was standing room only here yesterday at the dedication of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s new Foundation Seed Facility.

    The $8.6 million facility will be part of the Rice Research and Extension Center and is a tremendous leap forward for Arkansas rice farmers and the industry as a whole.

    Dr. Glen Bathke, the center’s program director, said the facility will manage the certified rice, soybean, and wheat foundation seeds produced by the Division of Agriculture, which require inspections throughout the entire process, from the field to the point of sale.  The facility will be capable of processing as much as 250 bushels of seed an hour, including pre-cleaning, cleaning, sizing, and other steps in ensuring the high quality of as many as 25 varieties of seed each year.

    Dr. Mark Cochran, University of Arkansas System vice president for Agriculture, said it was time to bring seed processing into the 21st century for one of the nation’s leading agricultural states.

    “It was time to replace something from the 1950’s,” Cochran said, noting the aging of the division’s original seed facility.

    The new facility features a 6,419-square-foot warehousing area, a nearly 3,330-square-foot conditioning area, and a 1,835-square-foot business area.  The bulk storage area includes 20 bins with a capacity of 26,000 bushels, enabling operators to dry and store as many as 20 different crop varieties at one time.  The facility’s belt conveyors can move 2,000 bushels an hour under one roof.

    Bryan Moery, a rice farmer from Wynne, Arkansas and chairman of the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, the group that provided $2 million for the project, was among the many growers who attended the dedication ceremony.

    “We’re quite pleased with this cutting edge facility that befits an already world-class rice research program,” Moery said.  “When Dr. Cochran brought this project to the board several years ago, we saw the need and supported his vision.  It’s nice to see it realized today.”
  • Rice Farmers Push the Natural State’s GDP to the Top

    by Deborah Willenborg | Aug 01, 2016
    Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward
    AR Ag Secy Wes Ward
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Last week, the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that Arkansas led the United States in economic growth for the first quarter of 2016, largely due to farming.

    Despite depressed commodity prices and a number of weather-related events, the boost in rice production this crop year significantly contributed to the growth in Arkansas’ gross domestic product (GDP).  The first quarter of the year is not the rice-growing season but in anticipation of increased acreage, farmers started buying new equipment, crop protection inputs, seed, and fertilizer, which all contribute to the overall economic productivity of the state.

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s June Acreage Report, Arkansas had planted an estimated 1.43 million acres of long grain rice this growing season - a 35 percent increase from last year’s plantings and a trend shared by the five other Southern rice-growing states.

    "Our real state GDP data is adjusted for changes in prices, so even if a commodity price falls, the GDP is going to reflect the higher crop output," said Thomas Dail a spokesman for the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  "Farmers may not feel it, but they're producing more rice."

    Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward said, “Agriculture is our state’s largest industry and we’re proud to be a significant contributor to GDP growth.  We applaud the efforts of Governor Hutchinson in growing our state’s economy and developing additional markets for agriculture, including the rice sector.  These efforts will positively benefit our growers and ultimately increase the economic impact to Arkansas as a whole.”

    Nationally, across the six rice-growing states there has been an estimated 3.21 million acres of rice planted, the third largest crop on record, up 23 percent from last year’s crop.  

    Based on the most recent study completed, the U.S. rice industry as a whole contributes more than $35 billion to the United States economy on an annual basis.
  • USA Rice Participates in ASU Agribusiness Conference

    by Lee Brinckley | Feb 12, 2016
    Cummings and Dr. Bert Greenwalt

    JONESBORO, AR - Arkansas State University held the 22nd annual Agribusiness Conference here earlier this week with the support of USA Rice and several industry members.  USA Rice COO Bob Cummings joined other speakers in presenting information important to agriculture in Arkansas and the Mid-South.  "It was an honor to return to the Agribusiness Conference and discuss the key trade challenges and opportunities facing the rice industry today," said Cummings.  "The conference presentations on succession and estate planning, environmental law and regulation, ag. financing, and commodity reviews were first rate."

    Cummings discussed USA Rice's ongoing efforts to develop new demand and market access for U.S. rice in international markets, with a current focus on China, Colombia, Iraq, and Mexico.  He also reviewed the pros and cons for rice of the recently concluded Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement as well as the importance of the ongoing negotiations with the European Union in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

    The conference is organized by Dr. Bert Greenwalt of the College of Agriculture and Technology, and is supported by a broad cross section of Arkansas agriculture.  "USA Rice has been a proud sponsor of this conference for seventeen years, which brings together expertise important to agriculture and related businesses in Arkansas," said Chuck Wilson of USA Rice. 

  • 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.”
  • Rice Leadership Class Member Wins Top Honor in Arkansas

    by Lee Brinckley | Dec 10, 2015
    Shannon and Derek Haigwood
    Derek & Shannon Haigwood
    LITTLE ROCK, AR – In acknowledgement of the high caliber of people chosen to participate in the Rice Leadership Development program, another member has won a Young Farmer & Rancher Achievement Award:  Derek Haigwood in Arkansas.  

    Last week, Derek and his wife, Shannon, of Newport, Arkansas, took top honors at the Arkansas Farm Bureau’s annual competition here.  The Haigwoods are a fourth generation row-crop farm family whose long-term goal is to leave a sustainable farming legacy for their son.

    Chuck Wilson, executive director of The Rice Foundation and manager of the Rice Leadership Development Program, said, "It’s no coincidence that our Rice Leadership members are being recognized as leaders in the ag community.  Derek and his fellow classmates graduate early next year but, as you can see, they are already having a tremendous impact on the industry.  These accolades and honors earned by our program graduates should be great incentive to anyone thinking about submitting an application.”

    The Haigwoods earned an expense-paid trip in January to the American Farm Bureau Federation national conference in Orlando where they will compete for national awards against at least one other Rice Leadership Development alumnus – Timothy Gertson, who took Texas’ honors last week as well.
  • In Arkansas and Mississippi, EQIP Aplenty

    by Deborah Willenborg | Nov 06, 2015
    Well EQIP-ed
    Combine in Mud
    ARLINGTON, VA – USA Rice along with Ducks Unlimited and more than 40 other partners are celebrating their most recent milestone as part of the Sustaining the Future of Rice project and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), one of two programs utilized by the project, collected a total of 334 applications when the sign-up period closed last month in Arkansas and Mississippi.  

    The other conservation program used within the project is the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

    The project includes implementation of conservation practices on working ricelands in the six primary rice-growing states using a $10 million investment from the NRCS and $6.8 million in private funds.

    USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely said, “These numbers have far exceeded our expectations and we’re confident that with a deep pool of applicants in both states we’ll be able to fund projects on the most environmentally sensitive rice-growing acres for the most effective results possible.”

    Applicants selected in this round of funding will be notified in early 2016 so they can begin implementing practices immediately.  

    The EQIP sign-up period for Louisiana and Missouri is open until Friday, November 20.  Sign-up in California and Texas is anticipated to begin later this winter and CSP sign-ups in all six states will happen late in 2016.

    Farmers in Louisiana and Missouri interested in learning more about EQIP and submitting an application should consult their local county or parish NRCS offices prior to the submission deadline.
  • Arkansas Industry Celebrates National Rice Month with Donation to Arkansas Rice Depot

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 22, 2015
    Governor Hutchinson (center) and Ag Secretary Wes Ward (far right) joined by Arkansas rice farmers, young and old.
    MS-AR NRM Proclamation-150922  
    LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Arkansas is the number one rice-producing state in the nation and celebrates that fact in a big way each September in honor of National Rice Month.  On Monday, Governor Asa Hutchinson presided over a signing ceremony at the State Capitol officially proclaiming September as Rice Month.  To mark the occasion, the Arkansas rice industry donated 110,100 pounds of rice to the Arkansas Rice Depot providing 1.1 million servings of rice for hungry Arkansas families.

    The Arkansas Rice Depot, a statewide food bank, works with 600 Arkansas hunger relief programs including food pantries, school food programs, disaster relief organizations, and a statewide hunger hotline to help feed hungry families across the state.  Participating rice mills were Cormier Rice Mill of DeWitt, Windmill Rice Company of Jonesboro, Riceland Foods, Inc. of Stuttgart, Producers Rice Mill of Stuttgart, Riviana Foods of Carlisle, and Specialty Rice, Inc. of Brinkley.  
    “This year, Arkansas family farmers will produce over 50 percent of the nation's rice for the first time in history,” said Arkansas Rice Council President Steve Orlicek.  “The Arkansas rice industry proudly contributes over $6 billion annually to the state's economy and employs nearly 25,000 Arkansans.”