CROWLEY, LA -- Members of the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committees met this week at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station to learn about the Louisiana rice industry. USA Rice members Jackie Loewer, John Owen, Richard Fontenot, and John Morgan spoke on behalf of the industry and gave presentations on Louisiana rice production, research, promotion, milling, and economic impact. Representatives from the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Rice Mill, Falcon Rice Mill, Kennedy Rice Dryer, and Louisiana Farm Bureau were also in attendance.
The goal of the meeting was to educate lawmakers on the importance of all sectors of the Louisiana rice industry. Many of the committee members have rice in their districts and were impressed by the outstanding research and promotion efforts of the Louisiana rice industry, from farm to fork. During introductions, members spoke about agriculture in their districts and expressed their appreciation of the Louisiana culinary staple, "rice and gravy."
Louisiana Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) acknowledged the importance of the Rice Research Station and expressed his desire to see what committee members can do to assist the rice industry on the state and federal level. Thompson visited Cuba this year and hopes the embargo with Cuba will eventually be lifted. He also said, “we need Washington to be very diligent in dealing with China and other countries that are possible competitors in global rice markets."
Richard Fontenot, a rice farmer from Ville Platte, educated committee members on the different production methods employed on the more than 400,000 acres of rice in Louisiana. He emphasized that water is the key to controlling weeds in rice production and discussed how farmers are the state's best conservationists, but also reminded them, "no water, no rice." Senator Gerald Long (R-Winnfield), former chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, acknowledged the importance and increased participation in the Louisiana Master Farmer Program as a tool to help farmers implement best management practices.
In his presentation, John Morgan, vice president of Louisiana Rice Mill, emphasized that "rice is the original economic engine of southwest Louisiana." He also explained the steps in the milling process and how southwest cities like Crowley's founding, growth, and decline can be directly correlated with the health and size of the rice industry.
"Processing rough rice into finished product locally adds critical value to the economic health of Crowley, Acadia Parish, Southwest Louisiana, the entire state, and ultimately the U.S.," Morgan said. “Because of the value added aspect of the state's processors, the rice industry's economic impact to the state's economy is doubled.”
John Owen, from Rayville, reported on the benefit of rice promotion activities and how these efforts expand the markets for Louisiana rice. He said, "Rice promotion programs have opened new markets for us, and without the rice checkoff program, existing markets will close and new ones will not be cultivated.”
USA Rice staff helped organize the meeting. Committee Members encouraged the Louisiana rice industry to continue their great work and keep them informed.