This is the first article for the new year, and I hope things move forward with a fresh start. From a small sampling of small talk at the end of last year, it seems as if things are better than at the same time the year before. There is definitely more optimism going into the new crop year.

Hopefully we will move on quickly from the LL601 situation. It is definitely time to stop using terminology such as “the rice industry was shaken to its roots or brought to its knees by the discovery of the LL601 protein.”

The industry is making a good faith effort to correct the situation. From the perspective of a weed guy, the overall outlook appears pretty healthy. I sure don't see it on its knees.

If certain market segments wish to put forth unreasonable demands, it may be difficult for them to find high quality rice — and ours is — elsewhere. It is time to get the knee pads off and move forward.

I have not acknowledged my receipt of the 2006 Riceland Foods Friend of the Farmer award in an article because I did not want to be the first to announce it. However, now that it has been made public I just wish to say that I was overwhelmed. If you work in agriculture, there can be no higher honor than for a world class organization like Riceland Foods to name you a Friend of the Farmer. To receive this award is definitely the highlight of my career.

The grower meeting season is here and I encourage you to get out and go. Even when no earth-shaking changes are taking place, there is always new knowledge.

I personally have some boning up to do on corn weed control. My philosophy of corn weed control has always been pretty simple — more atrazine. However, several new corn herbicides have come along since I last worked with corn. I want to be sure I am as up to date as possible when questions come.

I encourage you to attend enough grower meetings until you have heard all of the different experts across the commodities you grow.

Coming up soon in the new year will be public hearings on proposed changes in both glyphosate and 2, 4-D regulations. After those hearings, the Arkansas Plant Board will set the regulations for the current year.

As a member of the Glyphosate Task Force appointed by the Plant Board, I can say both the Task Force and Plant Board staff have worked very hard to come up with proposed changes that we feel will improve the situation without placing an undue burden on any one segment of the industry.

I am certain the proposed changes will not please everyone. As I have said many times, it is easy for any of us to propose changes to fix a problem from our personal perspective. The problem is there are many different situations and everyone does not think alike.

I have heard more grumbling on the proposed statewide ban on the aerial application of 2,4-D than I have on the glyphosate regulations. That one comes down to the issue of having a problem that needs fixing in the cotton growing areas while there is a lot of 2,4-D used in areas where cotton is not an issue.

On both the glyphosate and 2,4-D proposals, I encourage you to be heard at the public hearing if you so desire. That is what they are for. If you do not wish to speak, make sure someone is speaking who represents your views.

I have heard some say, “It is a waste of time to attend the hearing because the board is just going to pass the proposal anyway.” I have attended a lot of these through the years and I have seen changes made after hearings.

I am not trying to drum up crowds — there will be plenty of folks there without that! I am just saying that you have an opportunity for input, pro or con, on these proposals before they are set for the year.