Rice farmers prepare for 2011 growing season

By Crystal Price - bio | email

WELSH, LA (KPLC) - Rice farmers from all over southwest Louisiana gathered at the Welsh Community Center for the LSU AgCenter's rice clinic on Tuesday morning.

The clinic outlined market prices, disease risks, and the importance of exporting rice to keep profit up.

Rice farmers attended the clinic to questions and look for ways to make a better profit on their crop than they did in 2010.

"This last year the rice production was a little bit off," said Kevin Berken, a rice farmer from Jeff Davis Parish.

Berken recalls that steamy temperatures above 80 degrees overnight caused a stint in yield production for rice farmers in southwest Louisiana.

"It just caused some problems when the heads were forming," said Berken. "This caused some disease pressure on our rice and caused the lower yields. It brought the price down to a level we could not sustain."

However, Berken said the clinic taught them how to increase the yield production with weed pressure and herbicides.

The anticipated Lacassine rail loading facility could also bring more demand to southwest Louisiana rice farmers.

"We're hoping we can capture a market down in Mexico which is already in place an move a lot of this rough rice down in to there," said Glenden Marceaux, Vice President of the South Louisiana Rail Facility.

The plans for the rail loading facility are currently being looked at by an engineering firm in Arkansas. Marceaux said they are hoping to get the rail loading facility up and running for this coming rice season.

Despite the good news, however, the high cost of fuel could bring down the profit for the farmers.

"We're dependent on fuel," said Berken. "Our tractors run on diesel and it makes it extremely tough when you start buying bulk fuel and paying a whole bunch of money for it."

Rice farmers said they will continue looking at ways to protect their rice and begin preparing for a much anticipated successful growing season.

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