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For Keith Davis, who produces wild rice for Uncle Ben’s, as well as commodity rice, on K&S Farming around Yuba City, Calif., the lack of progress on a farm bill is putting a lot of pressure on young farmers. "I don’t know how they’re going to cope with it. And with the new banking regulations, there’s not nearly as much leeway as there was when farming got bad in the 1980s, which is when I got started."
Jimmy Hoppe, who produces soybeans and rice in Iowa, La., sees quality issues as his biggest concern. “We had blast problems in Louisiana this year. Our Extension and research specialists have told us it was the worst year for blast that we’ve had in 30 years. We did have some issues with yield loss. And any time you have issues with blast, as well as heat, you’re going to have quality issues.”
An even bigger problem is the impact that quality is having on U.S. rice customers, noted Hoppe. “Our customers are saying that our quality is not what they want. At this point, it’s not what it’s been, and we’re losing in that area. We’re also seeing some competition because of that. It’s a major concern for the rice industry as a whole.”
Rising input costs are also big issues for Louisiana rice producers, according to Hoppe. “Water cost and fuel costs have gone through the roof.”
Hoppe will plant the same number of acres to rice next year, but will plant all Jasmine types this year. “We have some markets developing, and were able to contract rice and get an upfront price. We know what were getting, we know what our input costs are, so we are going to go that route.”
Hoppe sees a good opportunity for further development of aromatic rice with the development of Jazzman-2, which is very close in quality and taste characteristics to the Jasmine types which are typically imported. Aromatic rice varieties comprise about 90 percent of rice imported into the United States.
“Before Jazzman-2, we were not able to compete with the Jasmine that was being imported,” Hoppe said. “We have a variety now that can compete with it, and that customers will buy.”