Experts, farmers optimistic for rice season

Experts, farmers optimistic for rice season
(Source: Candy Rodriguez/KPLC)

WELSH, LA (KPLC) - It's the beginning of a new year, which also means the start to a new rice crop season.

However, for the past couple of years, rice farmers across the state have experienced a drop in yields due to weather conditions impacting the cash crop.

"Yields were down about 12 percent across the board," said Paul Johnson a rice farmer.

The Welsh native's rice fields are located in Cameron Parish near the Hayes area, but when rice season is over he does not flip his field into a crawfish pond due to the demand for property during hunting season.

In 2016, August flooding left a devastating impact on the area's rice production – the state's southern parishes suffered about $68 million in losses. Crops in 2017 didn't fare too well either after a wet summer with Tropical Storm Cindy hitting at a critical time for rice growth.

"The rice is pollinating at that time and with the high winds and excessive rain it tends to knock the flowers off and provide blanking," he said.

But experts and farmers are optimistic about the upcoming season.

"The 2018 season for rice production looks very favorable," said Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter's rice specialist. "We have a lot of new technology that a lot of our rice farmers are going to be able to utilize."

Harrell said farmers will have access to new fungicide, four new herbicides, and a new herbicide-resistant rice variety – Provisia.

However, the weather conditions are not the only thing farmers have to worry about. Rice prices have dropped in recent years. Producers saw a small increase in 2017, but nothing compared to what they need it to be in order to break even.

"In conjunction with a little bit lower yields, it makes for a tough situation," said Johnson, when discussing the decreased prices and lowered yields. "We're really just hoping we get back to normal growing conditions, whatever normal is."

Farmers are expecting to start planting sometime in late February or early March.

More than 30 parishes grow rice in Louisiana, making the state the third largest producer in the country, according to the LSU Ag Center.

To take a look at the LSU AgCenter's 'Louisiana Rice Research Board Annual Report' click HERE.

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