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Heading into 2007 season: Arkansas rice farmers optimistic

It has been fun attending some of the meetings this winter. The crop outlook (as best I am capable of understanding the talks on this subject) seems to be much better going into the year.

All of us who are close to agriculture know you can't count your money until you have it in your pocket. Agriculture is a fickle business and about the only guarantee is this year will be different than every other year.

However, I would much rather go into the year with a good forecast for prices than one with a bad forecast.

Farmers seem to have more bounce in their step and a smile. That is a big change from this time last year.

I have commented to several people that working with farmers in the field this year may actually be fun. Hopefully you will not take that the wrong way. I enjoy working with farmers all of the time — that is what I chose to do in life over an acceptance to medical school (I still have the letter).

However, I rarely get called out to look at a field because it looks good. In fact, most fields I get called to look at are in trouble. When the farmer is in a cost/price squeeze, it is hard for him to be in a good mood to begin with.

Then when he is in a drought and the weeds are out of control and it is going to cost a ton to correct the situation, or the crop has been injured by a drift or by a herbicide he applied to the crop, it is really hard for him to be in a good mood. That is the way most field visits have been the past couple of years.

I hope the current positive outlook will carry through and farming will be fun again this year. It sure is a lot more enjoyable to work with farmers when they are having fun — and they are usually having fun if they feel they have a chance to make a profit.

I get more comments about the articles I write about farmers and farming than all of the others put together. Most of the comments are along the lines of “it is just good to know somebody cares and hopefully some people outside agriculture are reading them.” I enjoy writing them and will continue to do so.

However, I am ready for you to get in the field so I can start boring you with some weed control articles for a change. I am tired of writing about negative things like herbicide drift, regulation changes and the LLRICE 601 situation. We need to move past some of that stuff.

I don't know where the proposed 2,4-D and glyphosate regulation changes are going to wind up. Everyone says we can't live with the drift issues we had last year, but nobody wants regulation changes.

I am smart enough to know that I am looking at the end of a weed science career in the not too distant future. It may surprise some to know that weed science has never been my whole life, but rather I have just tried to do my job to the best of my ability when I was doing it.

Hassles over herbicide drift issues are the least fun part of my weed science life and may well be the thing that makes me finally hang it up.

Hopefully we can get the LLRice 601 issue behind us — at least the practical part of it. The lawsuits might drag out for years and take up a lot of a lot of people's time.

It would be nice if the APHIS report would come in — it might answer a lot of questions.

There have been reports now of the LibertyLink protein being found in some of the Clearfield 131 that has been tested. That one really brings up some questions. If it got contaminated after harvest, that is one thing. On the other hand, if the protein was present in the CL131 prior to harvest, it could suggest something entirely different.

A contaminant variety in the planting seed should not have survived the Newpath and Beyond applications. Hopefully further testing will clear up some of the questions on this variety soon.

The quickest way to get past everything but the lawsuits is to decide what varieties you are going to plant and make a good faith effort on the clean-up program and move forward. This too shall pass.

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