Rough season for SWLA rice farmers - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Rough season for SWLA rice farmers

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Southwest Louisiana rice farmers are experiencing a rough season.

The season began with flocks of birds feeding on crops.

The bird population is larger than usual, according to Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.

"This is the worst year for birds I've seen in the past 10 or 12 years," Linscombe said.

Linscombe said large numbers of blue-winged teal and spoonbills remained in Southwest Louisiana this spring.

"It's very frustrating," said Bill Wild, a Jeff Davis Parish rice farmer. "I just don't know which way to turn or what to do."

Farmers say in addition to the expense of replanting, they are also spending more money on shotgun shells and propane scare devices to help control the birds.

Barrett Courville, LSU AgCenter County Agent for Jeff Davis and Acadia parishes, said rice farmers are close to four weeks behind schedule compared to a normal season, forcing them to push back the harvest date.

Cool weather has also impacted crops, Courville added.

"Cool weather has really slowed everything down and the rice is just really not moving that fast," Courville said.

Wind is another factor, making it difficult for farmers to spray herbicides. Courville said there is also the possibility of a hurricane or strong storm that could wipe out rice fields.

"Your quality goes down the longer it's out in the field when it's ripe, so they (farmers) are going to lose money that way," Courville said. "If we could get some good sunny warm days, the rice would really catch up a good bit, but we're still going to be behind from where we were."

Wild said farmers deal with Mother Nature and hope for the best.

"It's just part of what we do," he said. "We're very dependent on what Mother Nature gives us and we have to learn to live with that and then survive by it."

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