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Recent foul weather may have hindered Louisiana rice crops
Lafayette, July 24, 2004
Recent sunlight will help farmers harvest rice crops, but the sunny weather may have come too late, as Acadiana farmers are reporting lower yields of rice.

Temperature changes, heavy rains, lack of sunlight and disease problems have all contributed to the demise of numerous crops, and farmers are finding that the rice crops are being hit hard as well.

“The harvest is going to be lighter than usual; it’s disappointing,” said Johnny Saichuk, a rice specialist with LSU Ag Center. “Last year was a record year. The year before that was a record year. This year won’t be close.”

There are more than 440,000 acres of rice statewide grossing more than $152 million, according to the LSU Ag Center’s 2003 Louisiana Summary.

Rice yields are off about 300 pounds to 500 pounds per acre, Saichuk said, making a significant impact on the state’s economy, as well as on the individual farmer’s bottom line.

Pat Reiners, an Acadia Parish farmer, said that his rice yields were off from the normal numbers but has lost some soybean crops completely.

“They’re not bad, but it’s just not what we expected,” he said. “It’s not a big difference ... just a little off.”

Reiners remained optimistic about salvaging as much as possible of the rice crop, saying that the rice was still good enough that the losses won’t make as big an impact as a complete loss would.

“It’s still too early to tell how badly we were affected until we finish (the harvest),” he said.

Another rice farmer, Bryan Leonards, said that his farm, just north of Crowley, is producing lighter yields than in the past. He said he believes that the hard rains hit at the critical time of pollenation for the plants.

Leonards also speculated that the milling quality of the rice grains is probably down, making the rice profits even lower.

“The price had been dropping even before the harvest, so that doesn’t help,” he said. “But you’ve got to go with the flow. The main thing is to get what you’ve got before a hurricane hits.”

And while other crops like corn, sugar cane and soybeans may not see much production this harvest, rice crops may have a silver lining behind the rain clouds.

Reiners plans to plant a second crop after the initial harvest and that crop could take advantage of the recent sunshine, he said.

The recent good weather also will help with the current harvest, Saichuk said, as harvest machines won’t tear up the ground much and allow follow-up crops to be planted easier.

“There may be a blessing in a lower yield,” Saichuk said. “It could offset the large supply in a local market and stabilize prices.”
MGR Archive 25.7.2004
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