La. rice farmer, Powell Group earn national accolades for conservation, sustainability

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Jeff Durand, a third-generation rice and crawfish farmer from St. Martin Parish, accepts the 2021 USA Rice Distinguished Conservation Award at the annual USA Rice Outlook Conference held in New Orleans in December. Durand was recognized for decades of ongoing agricultural conservation practices that he has employed on his family’s operation since the 1970s

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Earning the 2021 USA Rice Sustainability Award was the Lake Charles-based Powell Group. On hand at the 2021 USA Rice Outlook Conference in New Orleans to accept the award were Powell Group representatives, from left, Patrick Hartwell, Philip Bertrand, Laura Kelly and Jack McClelland. Photo provided by USA Rice

(01/05/22) NEW ORLEANS — The nation’s rice farmers, researchers and industry professionals gathered in New Orleans for the annual USA Rice Outlook Conference and Trade Show Dec. 5 to 7.

As Louisiana hosted this year’s event, rice leaders from across the state earned top honors for their dedication to promoting sustainability and conservation.

Farmer Jeff Durand, of St. Martinville, was recognized for his work in integrating conservation into his family’s rice and crawfish farm by receiving the 2021 USA Rice Distinguished Conservation Award.

Along with his brothers, Greg and C.J., Durand farms about 2,000 acres in southern St. Martin Parish with an emphasis on conservation. The farm was converted into a no-till operation in the 1980s, and the brothers continue the soil-saving practice today. The Durands have previously been recognized for their water and nutrient management and wildlife habitat efforts.

Durand has received prior recognition for his conservation efforts, including being named the 2018 Fertilizer Institute 4R Advocate. He has received the Ducks Unlimited Private Citizen Award and served as co-chair for the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership Committee since its inception in 2014. Durand also serves on the Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil and Water Conservation District Board and the Farm Bureau Board in St. Martin Parish.

The USA Rice Distinguished Conservation Award was established by California rice farmer Al Montna, former chairman of USA Rice. At the awards luncheon, Montna’s daughter and 2021 Rice Farmer of the Year, Nicole Montna Van Vleck, presented Durand with this year’s award.

Also earning recognition from Louisiana was the Powell Group, a multifaceted company that includes the Farmers Rice Mill and alternative energy production services using rice hulls as a power source. The Lake Charles-based organization was awarded the 2021 USA Rice Sustainability Award.

The USA Rice Sustainability Award was first awarded in 2016 to recognize the efforts of all segments of the industry to not only conserve natural resources but to find innovative ways to address all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social.

Laura Kelly represented the Powell Group that received the award in recognition of the company’s three distinct entities that lend themselves the most to sustainability. They include Agrilectric Power Partners (APP), a leading operator of rice hull combustion power plants; Agrilectric Research Co., which refines rice hull ash to create a unique amorphous silica structure used in the steel, environmental, transportation, filtration and agricultural industries; and B.H. Mitigation, a regional provider of wetland mitigation in central and southwest Louisiana that has created and protected more than 744 acres of wetland habitat and planted more than 150,000 trees.

1/5/2022 7:17:37 PM
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