The new group will include farmers in Avoyelles, Pointe Coupee, Rapides and St. Landry parishes, reported Randy Jemison of the USA Rice Federation, and it will be a member organization of the Louisiana Rice Growers Association.
Jemison estimated 45-50 growers are interested in joining, and he said the combined acreage in the four-parish area is 45,600 acres.
“We look forward to having them,” said LRGA President Christian Richard.
Jackie Loewer told board members about the current status of the debate on the upcoming farm bill. The most popular idea in congress is to cut the agriculture budget by 25 percent, which means the federal rice program now at $400 million, would be reduced to $300 million.
“Direct payments seem to be on the chopping block,” he said.
He also said a proposal is being considered to base payments on acreage in actual production instead of base acreage. Loewer said Louisiana has 725,000 base acres that are used for payments in the rice program, but roughly 450,000 acres in actual production.
Clarence Berken reported on discussions to get water diversion into the Mermentau River Basin to reduce the influx of saltwater in coastal southwest parishes. Richard appointed Berken as the liaison for water diversion.
In another matter, Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no funds remaining to fight blackbirds.
The blackbird baiting program has been effective since it started 20 years ago, Linscombe said. He said several state agencies have appealed to the USDA and the Louisiana congressional delegation.
Mark Zaunbrecher said the blackbird population has been controlled in Jefferson Davis and Vermilion parishes. “If it does go away, believe me everybody is going to feel the effects of it.”
Linscombe said the Louisiana Rice Research Board spent over $100,000 of check off funds on a study of the chemical used in the blackbird bait that was labeled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In other business, Jeff Durand of St. Martin Parish said conservation groups are hoping that funds will be available again to pay rice farmers to flood their fields this year for the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative.