Trying to explain to someone the difficulties of the 2020 rice growing season is probably similar to explaining to someone outside of Louisiana how boudin is made: it’s complicated.
Start with the pandemic and all its complications, follow that with a good growing season, and then end with two devastating hurricanes.
Friends have lost part of their crops in the fields by flooding and winds, or in the bins with the loss of electricity and winds that blew the storage facilities open and exposed the crop to the weather.
North Louisiana farmers were not spared. Hurricane Laura maintained its ferocity all the way to the Arkansas line and knocked down rice in many fields north of Monroe. Then a little more than a month after, along came Hurricane Delta with flooding rain to that area.
As Hurricane Laura approached the Louisiana coast, many of us scrambled to get our crops out of the field. Neighbors helping neighbors was common across the rice-growing region.
Crisis brought the industry together along with the power of unity and cooperation.
The Fontenot family farm got help from neighbors providing tractor-trailer rigs, combines, tractors and grain carts. And when our crop was cut, we called neighbors to offer help. That’s just the way farmers operate.
The same thing happened after the storm with damaged bins and power outages that crippled our effort at drying the crop. Again, neighbors and others in the industry, such as Supreme Rice Mill, came to the rescue with labor, generators and spare bin space.
That kind of team effort has really enhanced the true core of the rice family. We all went through this together and got the job done.
The second crop was showing promise, but then along came Hurricane Delta, and its winds stripped much of the grain from the panicles.
In spite of all the turmoil, our Rice Research Board and the LSU AgCenter are looking forward. We have some exciting forthcoming developments that could dramatically ramp up our research capabilities.
Also, the amount of research money generated by the Colombian Free Trade Agreement in 2020 was more than expected, and that will help fund additional research at a time when the research financial picture is not so bright.
The bottom line is that those in the business of growing and marketing rice will be rewarded for their perseverance and tenacity with new rice varieties and improved ways of growing a crop.
Looking past the devastation brought by events in 2020 — and I know that’s not easy in many cases — we accomplished a lot, and we’re looking at doing more in 2021 and beyond.
Richard Fontenot, Chairman
Louisiana Rice Research Board
The Louisiana Rice Research Board decides how farmers’ checkoff funds will be spent on projects aimed at helping the Louisiana rice industry. From left to right, bottom row, are Chairman Richard Fontenot, Vice Chair Dane Hebert, Secretary-Treasurer John Denison, Lester Cannon for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and David LaCour; top row, left to right, Kim Frey, Jerry Leonards, Jude Doise, Eric Savant, Damian Bollich, Alan Lawson and Jeffery Sylvester. Not pictured are Sammy Noel, Jason Waller and John Earles.