THE DELTA – Last week en route to Mississippi’s 86th Annual Delta Council gathering, USA Rice staff extended their Delta stay for some post-pandemic member visits. Weather was unusually mild and pleasant, planting progress was nearing 100 percent, irrigation pumps were warming up, and hope for a profitable and predictable growing season was in the air
“After being essentially trapped in Washington, DC for the past 14 months, I can’t describe how great it was to be back in rice country, catching up with our members who, by the way, didn’t get a break during the pandemic because they are working to feed us all,” said Betsy Ward, president & CEO of USA Rice.
Visits began just south of Memphis with representatives from Horizon Ag and Mississippi Farm Bureau, where discussions spanned from rice varieties to trade policy. Then just down the road in Tunica County, Curtis Berry along with his family in Robinsonville, MS hosted a breakfast and a history lesson of their family’s farming operation.
Bolivar County rice farmer Kirk Satterfield organized a dinner of area rice farmers, where struggles and successes of growing rice in Mississippi were shared, USA Rice Leadership alumni stories were exchanged, along with guidance from the alums to the current class member on how to properly prank classmates.
Visits continued south to Merchant member Farmers Grain Terminal, then across the Mississippi River to Lake Village, Arkansas where Joe Mencer displayed new techniques in row rice. The final stop before the evening reception at Delta Council headquarters was in McGehee, AR where Jim and Sam Whitaker exhibited fully automated rice irrigation using 100% surface water, along with in-depth discussions about climate policy.
“There’s a lot of action coming on climate and it’s crucially important that whatever policies and regulations emerge, they be not only effective at addressing the issue, but also farmer-friendly and achievable,” said the senior Whitaker. “The U.S. rice industry is a leader in sustainability and conservation and we’re always looking for new solutions here on our farm. I was happy to be able to share some of our practices with Betsy and others for them to take back to the big policy discussions they are having in Little Rock and in Washington.
Next up for Ward and her team will be the 121st Rice Millers’ Association Convention in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho and field days in Louisiana.