JEFF DAVIS PARISH, LA (KPLC) - A farm bill on Capitol Hill is threatening rice crops across Louisiana. The bill would cut direct payments for rice by 60%, more than any other crop the bill addresses.
The Lacassine rail facility may help the farmers get back some of their lost payments, but that's if the farm bill makes it through the House.
But the rail facility will greatly benefit the farmers no matter the circumstances.
"We had 30 some odd rice mills at one time," said rice farmer Bobby Hebert. "Now we only have three. No competition."
Hebert has been farming for over fifty years. He's ready to see the Lacassine rail facility open up to give farmers another outlet than what they have now.
"You're at their mercy," said Hebert. "I hate to say that. We do need them.we couldn't produce rice if we didn't have a market for it."
The facility is funded by farmers, the Jeff Davis Economic Board, Jeff Davis Parish and the state of Louisiana. Once completed, farmers will have more options for exporting rice.
"That rail facility will be moving rough rice into Mexico, South America," said Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain. "It can also move it to the ports."
The facility has been under construction, prior to the bill going to the Senate, and according to Strain is progressing well. But maybe most importantly, the facility revolves around the farmers.
"It is owned by, run by and for the farmers," said Strain. "They will collectively put their rice on these rail cars. Unit trains, up to 100 cars at a time."
Commissioner Strain says the rail facility will actually give farmers more leverage when it comes to their crops.
"It's another avenue for rice," said Strain. "It's another way to sell rice. In a lot of areas, there's still rice sitting in the bins from last year. We need to continue to move that rice. We hope we can get an increase in price."
The farm bill currently on Capitol Hill could potentially hurt the rice market in Louisiana, but the facility may allow farmers to get back some of the lost funds if the bill becomes law.
"We're hoping we can get a better price, a continual price, and a better outlet so we can grow the rice industry," said Strain.
While the farm bill made it through the Senate, both of Louisiana's senators, David Vitter or Mary Landrieu, voted against the bill.