Serving as the 2023-2024 Louisiana Rice Research Board are bottom row from left, Lester Cannon, Alan Lawson, John Denison, Ross Thibodeaux, David LaCour. Top row from left, Brian Wild, Charles “Michael” Costello Jr., Dylan Benoit, Connor Popeck, Kim Frey, Eric Savant, Charles Schultz, Seth Brown, Dustin Watkins, Hunter Luquette. Photo by Frankie Gould
Much like rice farming, no two years for the Louisiana Rice Research Board (LRRB) are the same. For the 2023 board year, we experienced a lot of changes in the makeup of our board. However, much like the adversity that comes with farming, we adapt and continue to do the work set before us. The LRRB continues to have great farmers stepping up to volunteer their time to represent the best this industry and Louisiana has to offer to steward our collective funds to better rice farmers as a whole. We also appreciate the outgoing board members for their dedicated service.
It is a great honor to be a second-generation Louisiana Rice Research Board chairman. My father, John Denison, served in this role, and he and the other chairmen before me have done a great job in bringing this board and our research programs to where they are today.
The board has worked hard in the 2023 cycle to bring new board members up to speed, while also accepting their fresh input on the projects we fund and the results we produce. Certainly, as we look at the 2023 crop, we know that drought and other environmental conditions played a big role in our production. With that in mind, and the opportunities for farmers to participate in “climate-smart” programs forthcoming, the LRRB has asked our cooperators at the LSU AgCenter to further investigate practices that may relate to voluntary, incentive-based programs and practices. As always, we need to ensure best management practices are not just environmentally sustainable, but profitability sustaining as well.
One constant for the LRRB is our principal focus of variety development. You, our stakeholders, have made it clear, along with the multiple generations of board members, that variety development and yield advancement is a rice farmer’s best tool to achieve profitability. The H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, rice breeder Adam Famoso, and other faculty and staff that make up our collective breeding program are still the flagship program of the Louisiana Rice Research Board. They continue to produce great results and are doing so at an unprecedented pace because of LRRB investments.
Varieties without management though do not reach their full potential. That is why the board has also prioritized our extension programs in agronomy, weed science, pathology and entomology as core programs that we hope to fund consistently for years to come. Through new budget processes and internal review, we feel that the LRRB is better positioned to support those programs that reach our stakeholders most readily well into the future.
Our board is also getting competitive. Along with the new energy seen from LSU AgCenter leadership, the LRRB plans to encourage researchers to think big and not just lean on our checkoff funds, but rather, leverage those funds to acquire federal dollars or other outside funding to advance our industry in a more expeditious fashion. Science, innovation and technology have brought us this far, but those same things will come at a greater cost in 2024. So, it will be imperative that we get strategic in how we advance our production moving forward on a checkoff dollar that may have depreciated due to inflation. We are planning for that and are encouraged by the efforts the LSU AgCenter is making.
Lastly, many of our new board members expressed that they were not truly aware of all the great work that the LRRB is generating until they were seated on the board. That is a shame and something we plan to work on. These checkoff dollars are Louisiana rice farmers’ money. We want you to see where these funds go and to absorb the benefits that come from how they are spent. So please continue to engage with us, attend the field days and grower meetings, and feel free to join in board meetings that occur twice a year. The Louisiana Rice Research Board is going to make external communication a greater priority in 2024, and we look forward to showing you all that your checkoff dollars are doing for you.
John Denison, Chairman
Louisiana Rice Research Board