Representatives of north Louisiana rice farmers told the Rice Growers Association Board of Directors on Wednesday (May 4) that the flooding threat from the Mississippi River has producers worried that their crops could be in harm’s way.

“We’ve got a flood potential that would match 1927,” said John Owen of Rayville.

Owen gave a few scenarios of levee breaks and how much flooding would occur. Not only would fields be flooded near the river, but drainage basins also would be backed up for areas throughout the northeast corner of the state.

“This is like Katrina, and it could happen real fast,” Owen said.

But Owen said he has been assured that the levees will hold, although some towns such as Jonesville could experience flooding.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Johnny Saichuk said he saw trucks near the Mississippi River moving rice to higher ground on Tuesday.

On the southern extreme area of Louisiana’s rice-growing area, farmers are still having problems with insufficient rainfall. David LaCour of Abbeville said lower Vermilion Parish has high salt levels in surface water.

“We haven’t had any rain in 6 weeks to amount to anything,” he said. “I’ve heard reports of rice dying from salt in the water.”

Saichuk said he has seen young rice plants dying from salt contamination.

Owen also said a new rice mill is being built by Elton Kennedy near Mer Rouge. It could be in operation by January and would handle 2 million hundredweight, roughly 35 to 40 percent of the northeast Louisiana rice crop

Association board member Jim Watkins said engineering work continues for a rail facility to handle rough rice near Lacassine.  He said construction could start in July or August with completion possible in early 2012.

“It’s progressing about as fast as it could happen,” Watkins said.

The board agreed to allocate $2,000 for the LSU AgCenter Young Agriculture Producers Program that provides education for youth interested in making a career out of agriculture. Program director Bradley Leger told the board the cost of the program is $2,200 per student.

Leger said 22 students are in the program this year, and four have said they want to be rice farmers.

The board re-elected Christian Richard, of Indian Bayou, as chairman, Owen as vice chair and Jeffrey Sylvester, of Whiteville, as secretary-treasurer.