NEW ORLEANS – The USA Rice Federation honored a former LSU AgCenter administrator and a number of others during the Rice Outlook Conference earlier this week in New Orleans.
Joe Musick of Alexandria, who served as resident director of the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station at Crowley for 18 years, was honored Monday (Dec. 6) as the 2004 recipient of the Rice Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, Dane Hebert of Maurice was recognized as Rice Farmer of the Year, and Melissa LaCour of Abbeville received a $2,000 Rice Scholarship.
Three Louisiana men also were selected for the 2005-07 Rice Leadership Program. They are Jeff Durand of St. Martinville, Christian Richard of Kaplan and Philip Bertrand of Elton.
Musick, 68, was director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station from 1985 until he retired in 2003 after 18 years on the job.
"I know that we all are proud of his leadership and activity in the rice industry as demonstrated by his achievements in rice farming in Arkansas and rice research, teaching and extension in Louisiana and Mississippi," said H. Rouse Caffey, chancellor emeritus of the LSU AgCenter. "This award reflects excellent recognition not only of Dr. Joe Musick, but the Rice Research Station and the LSU Agricultural Center."
In February, Musick was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award at the Rice Technical Working Group in New Orleans.
Musick started his agricultural career with a field of cotton in Mississippi County, Arkansas.
"I started farming when I was 16 years old," Musick recalled. "I remember farming for my uncle who plowed with mules, and my great-grandfather rode a horse."
In 1985, Musick became director of the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station in Crowley, a position he held until 2003. During that time, the station grew in prominence – developing techniques and varieties that dominate the national rice market.
Vicky Boyd of Rice Farming magazine, who announced the award at the Rice Outlook Conference in New Orleans, said the Rice Station under Musick’s tutelage developed 11 new varieties.
"Planting data show these varieties accounted for more than 60 percent of the rice acreage planted in the south during 2004," she said.
As for others who were recognized at the conference, Hebert grows about 600 acres of rice and 200 acres of soybeans annually –in addition to farming crawfish. He has served on the Louisiana Rice Growers Association Board of Directors, and he is a graduate of the LSU AgCenter Ag Leadership Development Program.
Lacour, 16, daughter of David and Diane LaCour, is a home-schooled student. She said she plans to use the scholarship when she starts her college studies two years from now in kinesiology or communications.
The awards program is sponsored by Syngenta, Rice Farming magazine and the USA Rice Federation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu opened the conference Sunday night, and U.S. Sen.-elect David Vitter spoke at the conference Monday morning.
Landrieu said she is "part of the rice team," and Vitter pledged to protect agriculture in the upcoming Farm Bill due to be completed in 2007. Vitter said he would continue to oppose payment limitation amendments.
Vitter also said he supports the trade embargo on Cuba. "However, I don’t understand some of the new bans and hurdles the administration is placing on trade," he said.
Discussions of trade and farm policy at the Rice Outlook Conference often focused on the World Trade Organization and Brazil’s challenge of U.S. price supports for American cotton growers.
Ben Nobel, who handles governmental affairs for the Rice Federation, said the cotton challenge is relevant for the rice industry.
"If it’s cotton today, it’s rice tomorrow," Noble said
Consultant Jim Wiesemeyer of Informa Economics said Brazil is waiting to see how the cotton issue is resolved before deciding if a challenge against U.S. rice will be filed.
Nathan Childs, U.S. Department of Agriculture rice analyst, said the world rice trade is showing signs of a good future.
"There’s very little on the downside for the global market," he said.
Ending stocks are at their lowest levels in 20 years, Childs said.
Wiesemeyer gave assurances that the next Farm Bill will not be as gloomy as expected.
"Lawmakers are not going to pull the rug out from farm payments," he said. "But pucker up. Cuts are coming."
He said when the current Farm Bill was passed, fears were raised that it would add to the deficit. Instead, the Farm Bill formula has cost 20 percent less than expected, because high commodity prices have reduced price supports.
Wiesemeyer said he was surprised that Ann Veneman will be leaving as agriculture secretary.
"Why she was let go is unclear," he said.
The government analyst also said CAFTA, when it’s brought to Congress next year, will provoke a confrontation over U.S. sugar policy, and he said it’s inevitable that changes will be made in the sugar program. Wiesemeyer said the growing interest in creating energy from biomass will help cane farmers, however.
Writer: Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or email@example.com