In promoting that, Roberts and rail facility representatives have traveled to Mexico and met with all the major buyers there. “We even met with large packers who don’t own mills there. Those visits were prompted by the quality debate that has been going on. It’s been a lot of fun to take them around and introduce them. They’ve learned to be diplomats.”

Those meetings, says Krielow, “have gone really well. We’ve been to several cities and mills, visited with millers of all sizes.

“The idea that they could talk directly to the guys actually growing the rice back in the States appealed to them. We explained the quality- control steps we take and how they could get what they want – no comingling, specific varieties, whatever.”

In return, the Mexican buyers have visited the rail facility and plan to come back.

“One of the largest buyers in Mexico will be visiting us soon,” says Krielow. “He’s interested in variety-specific rice knowing that rice here can be ready to ship quicker than rice grown in the Delta. Harvest here is about a month ahead of the Delta.”

Some of the Mexican customers are also entertaining the idea of contracting facility farmers to grow rice.

“One of the convenient things about the facility is the buyer can buy specific varieties,” says Roberts. “He can say ‘Look, I only want X variety – no mixing.’ That’s something that is going to become more common. More and more, the buyers are asking for a specific hybrid, a specific Clearfield, a specific conventional. The ability to provide that service is an added plus for the facility – they make it easy to IP.

“The buyers in Mexico have been pleasantly surprised at the quality they’ve received from the facility. A number of them have told me the rice is best they’ve seen for quite a while.”

What about expanding into shipping different commodities?

Krielow says that’s, “a definite possibility. We never tagged this as a purely rice-specific facility. Mexico imports a tremendous amount of corn and soybeans from the United States. Of course, south Louisiana farmland is primarily in rice – our soils don’t allow us to diversify as much as those in the Delta.

“One thing that most folks don’t know is that the facility isn’t limited to members-only rice. Anyone that wants to rent the facility is capable. That may be something that opens up opportunities in the future. We welcome the business.”

What’s “really great” about the facility, says Pousson, is it came about because “a bunch of farmers banded together. There’s power in numbers and much too often we kind of fragment instead of being cohesive. That didn’t happen here and we’re all going to benefit.

“There’s no school on how to do grants and capital outlays and the like. It hasn’t been a smooth ride. But we all rode it out and learned all kinds of things about how the government operates. Kudos to the administration (of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal), to Commissioner Strain and everyone who helped us move it along.”