Mar 09, 2023
Excerpted from an article by Craig Gautreaux, LSU AgCenter
BATON ROUGE, LA – Last week, the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction inducted three new members, Jackie Theriot, a sugarcane farmer from St. Martinville, Gerard Frey, a rice farmer from Iota, and Dr. Steve Linscombe, retired LSU AgCenter rice breeder and current director of The Rice Foundation & the USA Rice Leadership Development Program.
Frey started his farming career as a first grader. He would return home from school and hop on a tractor to help his father raise rice. His first rice crop on his own was during his senior year in high school, and he has been raising rice ever since for 44 consecutive years. In 2018, Frey was recognized as Rice Farmer of the Year at the 82nd International Rice Festival in Crowley.
Early in his career, Frey took the advice of a speaker he heard say it’s the diversified farmers who would be the survivors so he started raising crawfish and his business helps make Acadia Parish Louisiana’s top rice and crawfish producer. His wife, Dana, convinced him to build a crawfish processing facility and she’s now responsible for running the entire crawfish operation, which also processes alligator throughout the year.
Dr. Linscombe served nearly 30 years as the rice breeder at the H. Rouse Caffery Rice Research Station in Crowley. During his tenure, 33 new rice varieties were released and the average rice yield went from 4,500 pounds per acre in 1988 to 7,200 pounds per acre in 2017. Not only were yields up for these new varieties, but their resistance to insects and diseases also greatly improved.
A significant advancement spearheaded by Linscombe was the development of the Clearfield varieties which gave the rice industry a new way to attack red rice, a weed that’s a close relative to commercial rice. It revolutionized how rice producers could now cultivate and grow their crops. Linscombe also has made significant contributions on the academic side as well. As a principal investigator, he received more than $20 million in grant funds to research rice issues, and authored more than 350 publications, with 81 of them being peer-reviewed publications.
Upon retirement from the AgCenter in 2017, Linscombe moved to Texas and became the director of The Rice Foundation, where he continues to share his leadership and knowledge with the industry’s younger generations through the Rice Leadership Development Program, of which he is an alumni. He also continues to work on sustainability issues and with rice breeders across the globe to improve rice quality, and is a key member of the USA Rice staff, taking on any challenge the industry faces.
“A great man is great because of who he is and what he does. But a great man is also great by what he does not do,” said Jackie Loewer, a rice farmer from Branch who was inducted into the Hall of Distinction in 2021. “In reflecting on Dr. Linscombe’s life it is evident that he doesn’t engage in petty, provincial debates or arguments. He doesn’t think he has to do all the talking. He doesn’t think he is the smartest man in the room, even if he probably is. And, he doesn’t think he is losing anything by giving some of himself away.”