The Louisiana Rice Research Board decides how farmers’ checkoff funds will be spent on research to help rice farmers. Board members, left to right, bottom row, are Jerry Leonards, Vice Chairman Dane Hebert, Chairman Richard Fontenot, Secretary and Treasurer John Denison, Damian Bollich and Eric Savant; top row, David LaCour, Jude Doise, Alan Lawson, John Earles, Jeffery Sylvester, Kim Frey, Benjamin Rayburn for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and Sammy Noel.
As farmers, we are always faced with challenges, in and out of the field.
This past year, we endured more than our share of hurdles. For most of us, the 2019 crop was one of the most difficult we’ve encountered with some of the lowest yields in a long time, and we hope it won’t be repeated.
We knew by midseason that our crop would be facing challenges with continuously wet conditions, disease and a tropical weather event at a critical time for the crop. Conditions were prime for diminishing our crop production opportunity.
After Hurricane Barry, most fields appeared to have been left unscathed. A minimal amount of lodging could be found. But as the season progressed, we realized the storm caused damage that wasn’t obvious. Lodging wasn’t widespread because panicles were either blank or slow to develop. And the moisture brought by Barry only added to the disease incursion that plagued the mature crop all the way to harvest.
Looking forward, prices have made some recovery, so there is room for optimism as we prepare for the 2020 crop.
As the saying goes, “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”
There were positive developments in 2019. They included the first U.S. rice sale to China, which could lead to more sales in the future and would be a huge boost to the industry. Significant sales to Iraq were also made, and the industry hopes that will continue for years to come.
A price increase for rice in the fall was welcome relief, but it was the result of low crop production that eliminated a large portion of the 2019 crop carryover.
Even though times have been difficult, now is not the time to stop investing in our rice industry’s future. For our industry to survive, we must become more efficient and productive, and advances through research programs are the most viable ways to achieve that goal.
Your Louisiana Rice Research Board has made both short- and long-term plans and investments to ensure the state’s rice industry will have the benefit of timely research to keep the industry sustainable. We must continue our investment to maintain the momentum and industry-leading research we have set forth over the years at the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station.
Last year, the Louisiana Rice Research Board set aside $2 million in Colombian Free Trade Agreement money for an academic chair for the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. Interest generated by the account will be used to fund an endowed chair position to enhance efforts at the rice station with a stable funding source for perpetuity. The principal can never be touched.
Money from the Colombian Free Trade Agreement also has been invested in the rice research station infrastructure with a new milling facility, an emergency generator, additional office space at the administrative building, and updates to laboratory and greenhouses facilities. Your board has also used these funds to enhance support of additional research projects that could not have been funded with only checkoff funds.
These improvements and project support will ensure that the research facility not only is a state-of-the-art facility with the infrastructure capable of handling future needs, but it is also capable of identifying and solving industry needs in a timely manner.
The board continues to use your checkoff dollars to fund applied research projects that will ultimately help us improve our farming practices. This responsibility is not taken lightly, and I invite all of you to attend any of our meetings as well as your annual field day to identify what needs we can address to make our industry more viable and sustainable for years to come.
Thanks for all your support, and God bless.
Richard Fontenot, Chairman
Louisiana Rice Research Board