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418 projects proposed to restore Louisiana coast, help rice farmers

2012 Louisiana Rice Growers Board of Directors chooses John Owen as president and Jeffrey Sylvester as vice president. Hears presentation on the proposed comprehensive plan for Louisiana’s coastline written by the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

The Louisiana Rice Growers Board of Directors chose John Owen, of Rayville, president and Jeffrey Sylvester, of Whiteville, vice president at its March 6 meeting.

Owen, who replaces Christian Richard of Indian Bayou, was vice president for the past year, and Sylvester served as secretary-treasurer. Jim Watkins of Welsh was elected secretary-treasurer for the upcoming year.

Also, the board selected individuals to be considered for the LRGA recommendations to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for five seats on the Louisiana Rice Research Board and one seat on the Louisiana Rice Promotion Board. 

The board heard a presentation from Greg Linscombe, a wetlands consultant and former Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries official, on the proposed comprehensive plan for Louisiana’s coastline written by the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration.

Linscombe said the 418 proposed projects would total $50 billion if approved by the Legislature, and much of that would be paid with funds from the BP oil spill settlement and increased revenue from offshore mineral extraction.

“The question is, will the big bucks show up?” he said.

One of the projects proposed is a system to protect the Henry Hub natural gas facility in Vermilion Parish with a levee and water control structure. Another proposal, estimated to cost $380 million, is a set of locks at Calcasieu Pass to control the flow of salt water from the Gulf of Mexico into Calcasieu Lake.

A levee system and bank stabilization project along the Intracoastal Waterway from Freshwater Bayou in Vermilion Parish to Calcasieu Lake is being proposed with an estimated cost of $65 million.

“It looks like everything they are proposing would be beneficial to the rice industry,” said Clarence Berken, of Lake Arthur.

But Linscombe said the draft plan is likely to be altered before it gets to the legislature.

Scott Edwards of the Natural Resources Conservation Service told the board about a proposal to continue the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative that would pay farmers for flooding fields. The program started in 2010 after the BP oil spill, but no funds were available for it last year.

Edwards said efforts are under way to obtain $3 million for Louisiana farmers who enroll in the program. Farmers would be required to pump water to an 8-inch depth on fields in the program, but no additional pumping would be required.

Randy Jemison of the USA Rice Federation told the board about a proposal by Ducks Unlimited to pay rice farmers for waterfowl habitat creation.“They realize if they lose the rice industry, they’ll lose all this habitat.”

Michael Fruge reported to the board on the first meeting of the Central Louisiana Rice Growers Association for rice farmers in St. Landry, Rapides and Avoyelles parishes. He said Philip Lamartiniere, of Bunkie, was chosen as president, and Thomas St. Cyr was elected vice president.

Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said a task force has been formed to study grain quality issues. He said rice mills are examining quality differences among rice lines. The station will participate in a study that will require growing major U.S. rice varieties that will be analyzed for milling quality. Chinese rice, unlike U.S. rice, is graded according to quality.

Owen reported to the board on a proposal that could narrow the gap between cash prices for rice and the futures prices paid at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Owen said since 2008, the price difference has been widening.One of the measures would expand the delivery region on the Mississippi River, attracting more companies to receive rice.

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