A lot of rice growers are discouraged by high production costs and rice prices that will not support those costs. There is a lot of talk about a further reduction in rice acres next year.
We all know things can change quickly in agriculture. All of the reports we have seen since last fall would seem to indicate that prices should move up, but nothing much seems to be happening. We need it to happen in time to help this year's crop.
On the bright side in rice, weed control was relatively easy in most cases this year. Great soil moisture early in the season, good application timing and an increased use of residual herbicides all contributed.
Many growers were able to get excellent weed control at below-budget cost. Unfortunately the cost savings were often offset by the need for extra fungicides due to heavy disease pressure. On the bright side: we did not have a year where both herbicide and fungicide costs went through the roof.
Stink bugs have been around, but not in numbers that required treatment in most cases. While pumping costs are high and very discouraging to farmers, rainfall in many areas and the crop being further along than normal have helped tremendously. Before you send me copies of your pumping bills, I am simply saying that things could have been much worse. We have had some favorable weather for rice yields and milling quality.
It is no secret that rice farmers need record yields this year. The weed control we need for a bumper crop is in place. If the weather remains favorable and you have controlled diseases, you have done all you can.
So far this year, the herbicide drift situation seems to be much better than it was last year. Except for a couple of hot spots, this season was much easier for me than last year. I am not getting many late-season calls either. Let's hope that continues.
It does not take much glyphosate drift during the reproductive growth stage of rice to cause anything from subtle to drastic differences in both yield and milling quality. If the drift situation is as much improved as it seems, this is simply another factor that gives us a chance for high yields this fall.
I am an optimist, and this rice production season is not over yet. The crop looks good. If diseases have not take too great a toll, it should yield well.
I have no clue what prices will do. They have to go up sometime; I hope it will be this fall.
I recently spent a week in at a tractor show northern Illinois. It was extremely dry from northeast Arkansas to northern Illinois. Dry weather in the entire area was a topic of discussion at the show. If it remains dry in the Midwest, it would stand to reason our prices for corn and soybeans will remain strong. This is definitely something to chalk up on the bright side.
When things are good it seems as if they will be good forever. Everyone is talking now as though corn and soybean prices will remain strong forever due to biofuel production. If they do, rice prices are going to have to follow suit.
Arkansas has a heritage in rice farming. A rice farmer can learn to like high soybean and corn prices, but down deep he wants to farm rice.
We have a lot of land in Arkansas that is much better suited to rice production than for other crops. In addition, the entire infrastructure in some communities is built around rice. Heck, the entire infrastructure in my own business is built around rice!