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Western and Texas rice producers prepare for annual meeting

Texas and Western rice conference in El Campo will offer varied slate of discussions, including trade and government policy.

Texas rice growers are set to gather Jan. 18 in El Campo when the joint Western Rice Belt Production Conference and the Texas Rice Council annual meeting kick off to highlight the latest updates on U.S. rice industry and to discuss production updates with growers in attendance.

The one-day annual event is a much anticipated conference for Texas rice growers who have been battling a host of challenges in recent years including problems associated with water availability, ongoing production issues, and trade challenges.

Respected rice industry officials will address conference participants on expectations of the industry related to marketing, production, regulations and trade while top Extension and Research scientists will discuss new and upcoming developments and technology.

The Western Rice Belt planning committee, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, U.S. Rice Producers Association, and Texas A&M AgriLife Research have joined forces to make the conference comprehensive and relative to the challenges of rice production in the region.

Rice farming in Texas can trace its origins to 1685, when rice first came to the U.S. from Madagascar, according to the Texas State Historical Association. TSHA reports that although there was early domestic cultivation of rice in Louisiana and Texas, commercial rice production began in Louisiana shortly before the Civil War and in the 1880s spread rapidly through the coastal prairies of southwest Louisiana into southeast Texas.

Texas coastal rice farmers began using water of the Colorado River in the early 19th century, more than 40 years before the Highland Lakes were created. As such they earned senior water rights on the river's water.  But an extended drought that plagued the region starting in about 2006 and through an emergency water order prompted by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and approved by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in 2012 and three subsequent years, rice growers in the most concentrated rice region of Wharton, Colorado and Matagorda Counties were all but restricted from using water from the river as demand and upstream use increased and water availability declined. Many Texas rice producers were forced to curtail or even abandon rice production as a result.


But sufficient rains over the last two years have helped Highland Lakes water levels to rise and rice growers have enjoyed the beginning of better crop opportunities since the emergency restriction order was lifted, bringing new hope and energy to a once-stable Texas rice industry.

While irrigation allotments have returned to the rice growing region, rice producers are acutely aware that the flow will continue only as long as the rains keep falling to keep reservoir levels near capacity.

Now that water from the river is available for use, rice farmers have new hurdles to jump. Many remember when rice was a major trade crop with Cuba. Because of a trade embargo in the early 1960s, that trade outlet closed. But many producers became hopeful when the Obama Administration attempted to normalize trade relations with Cuba.

But with president-elect Trump's stand on trade limitations, what seemed like a potential new opportunity for long-grain rice growers may not develop. The issue could be one of the topics open for discussion at the upcoming conference.

A respected agenda of speakers at the conference have been assembled. They include:

  • Dennis Delaughter, Price Risk Management Tools
  • Thomas Wynn, Rice Market Inventory and Outlook
  • Shane Zhou, Rice Disease Management Update
  • Muthu Bagavathiannan, Weed Management Update
  • Mo Way, Insect Management in Rice
  • Greg Baker, Pesticide Laws and Regulations Update
  • Silveus Financial, Financial Risk Management
  • Joe Outlaw, Rice Policy Update

Registration for the conference will begin at 8:00a.m., with the remainder of the program to begin at 8:15a.m. After a catered lunch, provided by area agribusiness sponsors, the program will conclude at 2:30p.m.

The Texas Rice Council will also conduct their annual meeting in conjunction with the 2017 Western Rice Belt Conference. The Texas Rice Council will conduct their producer elections during the lunch hour, following the announcement of the Rice Poster Contest winners.

For more information, contact the Texas AgriLife Extension office in Colorado County at 979-732-2082; or Wharton County at 979-532-3310; or go to and click on Events to view a flyer for the Rice Conference. 2 (1 L&R and 1 IPM) for TDA Pesticide Applicators will be awarded at this event. CCA hours have been applied for and will be offered pending approval. Pesticide Applicators are reminded to provide their Pesticide Applicator License number at registration.

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