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Louisiana rice farmers renew checkoff

Louisiana rice producers have approved a five-year renewal of checkoff fees on their crops to fund research and promotion.

Both measures passed with 85 percent voting in favor of the referendum and 15 percent opposed, the same margin of approval when the checkoff referendum was approved in 2002, according to Steve Linscombe, director in the LSU AgCenter’s southwest region.

Voting by hand ballot was conducted in major rice-producing parishes across the state on Jan. 30. Mail-in ballots were used in parishes with fewer than 30 growers.

The result means that 5 cents on each 100 pounds of rice sold will be used to fund research for the Louisiana rice industry. In addition, producers will pay 3 cents on every hundredweight of rice to promote their product.

Rice farmer Jackie Loewer of Branch, acting chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, said the vote is recognition by producers of the need for research.

“They understand that we have to invest in the future of our industry,” Loewer said. “Without continuing research, rice farming in Louisiana would fade away.”
The research board, appointed by the governor, decides each November on research projects to be funded each year. The LSU AgCenter receives a portion of research money for projects at the Rice Research Station near Crowley, La., and at the Baton Rouge LSU campus.

Loewer said board meetings are open to the public. The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held following the field day at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station on June 28.

“We are open to hearing concerns by anyone about the way the checkoff funds are spent,” Loewer said. “The meetings are a good opportunity to voice those concerns.”

Rice farmer Kevin Berken of Lake Arthur, La., chairman of the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board, said the checkoff for promoting rice helps fund advertising campaigns in the United States and the world to keep American rice on consumers’ tables. Much of the promotion money is directed to the USA Rice Federation, which conducts several promotion and trade programs.

“Roughly 40 percent of our U.S. rice crop is exported, and the international rice market is highly competitive,” Berken said. “We have to make consumers aware of the high quality of our product, and that can’t be done without money.”

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