Rice producers in the Missouri Bootheel are increasingly watching monsoons in India and El Niño weather in Brazil. Growing conditions in other countries will determine the export market — and prices — for the coming year, said a University of Missouri economist.

Brian Willott, rice analyst at MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), said he is more optimistic on rice price outlook for 2002 than the recent USDA crop report.

Both India and Brazil are large consumers of rice. Crop reports in India indicate an 11 percent drop in that count this year because of late monsoon rains. In 1998-99, the last time El Niño hit South America, Brazil became the largest importer of U.S. rice, Willott said.

The mid-August rice report from USDA indicated a price range of $4.25 to $4.75 per hundredweight this year. “In my opinion, prices will be better than that,” Willott said. “From what we know now about weather patterns, the price should move up.”

Willott said recent approval of fast-track trade legislation could have a positive impact on Missouri growers. “We're now locked out of several market blocs because of high tariffs,” the MU economist said. “Our trade negotiators can now work on those problems in South America and Africa.”

Willott said the new farm bill changes how government payments will be made to rice producers. Farmers who did not have rice program payments under previous farm bills may now be eligible.

“The most important thing a farmer can do is to check on the federal program,” Willott said. MU FAPRI has an interactive Internet tool to help producers make the most profitable decisions for their farm. The spreadsheet is located at http://www.fapri.missouri.edu/.

Willott urges growers and landowners to check the FAPRI Web page on base-and-yield update before going to their farm program appointments at Farm Service Agency offices this fall.

Missourians planted a record 215,000 acres of rice this spring, up from 211,000 acres last year. “Rice is the fastest increasing crop in the Bootheel,” Willott said.