Once again, weather robbed Mid-South rice producers of what could have been an excellent 2010 rice crop — this time excessive heat doing a number on it. But most rice producers remained optimistic as they discussed the past season and prospects for the next one, during the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Biloxi, Miss.

Louisiana Extension rice specialist Johnny Saichuk said high temperatures impacted yield for many of the state’s producers. “A lot of farmers who planted rice early started out harvesting good yields. As they got into the late rice that was flowering during the heat, the yields fell off dramatically, like going over a cliff. What started out to be a good crop fell off.”

The Louisiana rice crop could still be profitable, “depending on how producers market their crops,” Saichuk said. “Growers who had to sell green rice got hurt. Those with storage were able to take advantage of the recovery in rice prices later.”

Saichuk says Louisiana rice producers are hanging tough. “We’ve been through hurricanes and everything else and have managed to stay with it. But in Vermillion Parish, we used to plant between 80,000 to 100,000 acres. Now we’re down to between 40,000 acres and 60,000 acres. Some areas have taken a big hit.”

Saichuk says the state’s ratoon crop “would have been fantastic had prices been better at harvest. “Farmers didn’t want to put a lot of money into a second crop. Some didn’t fertilize, some didn’t even flood. They were able to harvest 4 to 5 barrels per acre without putting much into it. (A barrel is 147.6 pounds). Those who did put money into the crop made up to 20 barrels per acre on the ratoon crop.”

Joe Rennicke, rice producer from Stuttgart, Ark., said his rice crop “looked pretty good during the growing season. But the results were less than expected due to the higher temperatures. The quality was off dramatically.”

Rennicke says selling the crop won’t be a problem,” but it could have a long tail. The amount of brokens that are going to be in the market could have a detrimental bearing on future sales.”

Rennicke plans to keep his rice acreage at current levels for 2011, “and we may expand a little bit. Every farmer is different. I don’t have a very good soybean farm, so we’ll expand rice. But I think you’ll see a lot of rice producers in areas with more diversity moving to soybeans, corn and cotton.”

Michael Hensgens with G&H Seed, Crowley, La., believes south Louisiana rice producers will likely maintain acres in 2011, while other rice-producing states will probably lose some rice acres in response to good soybean, corn, wheat and cotton prices, “so we think with the opportunity for stocks to be reduced.”

Hensgens said the state’s ratoon crop “helped a lot of farmers’ finances. “We’ll take it.”