Jan 10, 2019
JENNINGS, LA -- More than 230 rice industry members gathered here yesterday for the annual meetings of the Louisiana Rice Council (LARC) and the Louisiana Rice Growers Association (LARGA), and to hear reports and updates from Baton Rouge and Washington, DC.
The meeting opened with the powerful Future Farmers of America creed delivered by Isabella Hardy, a freshman at Lacassine High School, and then remarks from Governor John Bel Edwards who praised the rice industry for contributing to the economy of Louisiana that he said was going strong.
Following the review and approval of financial statements, St. Martinville rice farmer Jeff Durand was elected to LARGA as an At-Large Member.
USA Rice’s Dr. Steve Linscombe introduced the Louisiana members of the Rice Leadership Development Program in attendance, and then Louisiana Rice Research Board chair Richard Fontenot made a special presentation to the Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter – a check for one million dollars to permanently fund a chair for rice research at the university.
“The research that has come out of the LSU AgCenter over the years has certainly helped the Louisiana rice industry, but it has also supported and fed the world,” Fontenot said. “This endowment has been in the works for a long time and now that it is official, I feel good knowing the rice industry will continue to benefit from world-class research that will come out of LSU thanks to this strengthened research program.”
USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward thanked the crowd for the support her organization enjoys from Louisiana and provided brief updates on the recently passed Farm Bill and developments on the trade front. She highlighted the newly-extended Memorandum of Understanding on rice between Iraq and the United States that USA Rice pushed and that benefits Louisiana directly, shared positive developments in the complicated relationship between the U.S. and China, and showed the Louisiana high school student’s video that won the National Rice Month Scholarship Contest.
USA Rice Vice President International Sarah Moran shared successes from amongst the more than 2,700 annual promotional events her department oversees overseas, including traditional advertising in markets such as Saudi Arabia and Haiti, digital marketing in markets such as Canada, and demonstration-based events in places like the U.S. top market of Mexico.
Representative Ralph Abraham (R-LA) addressed the crowd via video to talk about the pro-farmer work he is undertaking, including legislation he introduced that proposes changes to the formula for calculating MFP payments. The proposed legislation would focus on production rather than harvested acres. If passed, the legislation would be particularly impactful for growers in Louisiana who were prevented from harvesting some of their crop.
Following dinner, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain addressed the group to share his appreciation for the men and women of the rice industry and to talk about some of the important projects he is spearheading – including increased capacity at state ports and other infrastructure improvements.
The evening program concluded with a presentation from USA Rice Vice President of Domestic Promotion Michael Klein who shared highlights from several of his programs, including the successful Think Rice Road Trip that began in Louisiana in September and concluded there last month when local grower Michael Fruge won the raffle for the branded pickup truck that was used throughout the tour. The truck was on display out in front of the banquet hall continuing to attract attention and making people “think rice.”
Klein also talked about the 2018 USA Rice Foodservice Farm & Mill Tour that took place in August on the farm of Fred Zaunbrecher and his brothers. The tour also visited the Supreme Rice Mill, the Falcon Rice Mill, and Grosse Savanne Waterfowl and Wildlife Lodge, and Klein showed a powerful video explaining and documenting the trip.