A referendum will be held Jan. 17 for the renewal of a rice check-off program in existence for the past 40 years.

Balloting will be conducted at the LSU AgCenter Extension offices in parishes with more than 50 rice producers, including Acadia, Evangeline, St. Landry, Jefferson Davis, Vermilion and Calcasieu parishes, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

In all other parishes, mail-in ballots are being sent to individuals involved in the rice industry, and they have to be received by the Rice Research Station by the close of business on Jan. 17.

The renewal is a continuation of the 5-cent-per-hundredweight of rice for research and 3 cents for promotion. The referendum is held every five years.

Funds raised by the check-off program are spent by boards that oversee research and promotion.

Farmer Phillip Lamartiniere of Avoyelles Parish said the research funding keeps rice farmers afloat.“That’s the reason why we’re in business today. Between the new varieties and the agricultural practices, I’m a big proponent of the check-off program.” 

Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in Crowley, La., said the check-off funds have made it possible for Louisiana to be a leader among rice-producing states.“These funds have been invaluable in providing farmers better ways to grow their crop and then maintain and expand markets for U.S. rice. We encourage people to cast their ballots.”

Farmer Jimmy Hoppe of Allen Parish said promotion is essential for selling American rice overseas. “Without it, you wouldn’t be able to have the opportunity to move the amount of rice we grow.”

Hoppe said promotion money helps deal with trade barriers raised by other countries. On the domestic side, promotion helps keep rice visible as a cheap food with good nutritional value.