LSU AgCenter specialists give rice outlook at national conference

Bruce Schultz, Linscombe, Steven D., Saichuk, John K.  |  12/16/2009 3:21:02 AM

News Release Distributed 12/15/09

NEW ORLEANS – LSU AgCenter representatives gave their perspectives on the 2009 rice growing season in Louisiana and the upcoming year during the 2009 USA Rice Outlook Conference held in New Orleans Dec. 9-11.

Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, said half of the rice planted in Louisiana in 2009 was Clearfield, a herbicide-resistant variety, with half of that in CL151, which is one of the Clearfield varieties. Saichuk said he is concerned that many farmers are planting Clearfield in successive years, raising the chances of reducing the effectiveness of its herbicide resistance.

But, he said, it’s expected that 2010 Clearfield acreage will continue to increase because the variety is much easier to manage. Also, farmers probably will grow more of the LSU AgCenter’s new Jazzman, an aromatic variety similar to imported jasmine rice.

He said it’s likely that rice acreage in Vermilion Parish will increase because fields in the southern part of the parish will have lowered salt levels remaining from Hurricane Ike in 2008. He said north Louisiana acreage could increase also. “It’s going to be up, but not a lot.”

Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said a new hybrid program at the station will start its second year in 2010. He said 213 test crosses from the 2009 hybrid work will be planted by Chinese rice breeder Weike Li. Testing will also be done at off-station sites, Linscombe said, and planning is under way for a multi-state collaboration on hybrid development.

He said the crosses resulted from Chinese male sterile lines with U.S. varieties. He said a medium-grain hybrid combination shows promise, along with a hybrid using CL151.

Linscombe said farmers will have access to a limited amount of two new varieties from the LSU AgCenter, a long-grain, CL111, and a medium-grain, CL261.

Also at the convention, Crowley native Johnny Broussard of the USA Rice Federation was honored with the 2009 Industry Award for his work in Washington. Rice farmer Shannon Harrington of Iowa, La., was among seven individuals chosen for the 2010 USA Rice Leadership Development program.

Three Louisiana students received scholarships at the conference. The 2009 National Rice Month Scholarship Grand Prize went to Daniel T. McFarland of Keithville. He was awarded a $4,000 scholarship for his promotion entitled “Rice…Anytime, Anyone, Anywhere.” Zachary Joseph Romaine of Abbeville received a $3,000 scholarship for his second-place award, and Rachel Brown of Jennings took third place with a $1,500 scholarship.

Concerns about the effects of the Obama administration’s policies on the rice industry occupied much of the attention at the conference. Jim Wiesemeyer of Informa Economics Washington D.C. bureau said the Obama administration will take action on cap-and-trade if the proposed legislation does not pass Congress.

Wiesemeyer said the effects on farmers would be significant under the proposal that would convert 35 million acres of cropland and 24 million acres of pasture into trees.

He said the nation’s rice acreage would be reduced by 25 percent by 2050, compared to corn and soybean production’s decline of 22-29 percent.

Developing countries would benefit from the U.S. decline in agriculture, he said. “Africa and Eastern Europe will laugh all the way to the agriculture bank.”

It’s likely that the nation’s livestock industry would be exported to South America, he said.

He said it’s projected that cap-and-trade would decrease U.S. farm income by 7 percent, but offsets would increase income by 12 percent.

Food prices would inevitably increase, and it’s possible that the U.S. would have to import food if crops were hurt by a drought.

Mike Strain, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said cap-and-trade would hurt rice farmers.

“At the end of the day, our energy costs are going to soar,” Strain said, adding that the program would be a redistribution of wealth across international borders.

Wiesemeyer said the longest recession since World War II is ending, but the recovery is meager. “It won’t feel like a recovery,” and, he said, unemployment will rise again above 10 percent.

Wiesemeyer said the Obama administration will focus on reducing the federal deficit, and the agriculture budget will not be exempt. He said it’s likely direct payments will be targeted.

Jim Miller, undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said issues with Mexico trade officials have been resolved to allow resumption of U.S. rice exports into the country.

Miller said energy independence is a top priority for the Obama administration.

Nathan Childs, U.S. Department of Agriculture economist, said rice imports from Thailand and India will increase next year for jasmine and basmati types. Thai rice is more expensive than U.S. rice now, he said.

Medium-grain exports from other countries such as Australia and Egypt have declined, he said. “So literally the United States is the only supplier of medium-grain in the global market to any significant degree.”

Childs said the rice crops in the Philippines and India have been hurt by bad weather. Rice prices are likely to decrease, and demand is less because of a large carryover from last year. In addition, he said, a decline in the use of rice by beer brewers has reduced U.S. consumption.

Childs predicted higher production costs in 2010, with increased yields but a possible reduction in acreage.

Bruce Schultz
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