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La. Farm Bureau/Radio Network‏

December 9, 2013

2013 Rice Awards

Winners of the 2013 Rice Awards were announced in St. Louis during the USA Rice Outlook Conference.  Awards are presented in the categories of farmer, industry, and lifetime achievement.  This year's winners are Joe Aguzzi, Farmer of the Year, Eric Webster, Rice Industry award winner, and Elton Kennedy, Rice Lifetime Achievement award winner.

Joe Aguzzi planted his first rice crop in 1954 and has seen that initial effort grow into a 10,000-acre farming operation in Bolivar and Sunflower Counties, MS.  Known for his determination and dedication, Aguzzi is also noted for being at the forefront of new innovative farming practices.  He works closely with university and extension researchers to help develop new techniques to promote efficiency, quality, and sustainability to the benefit of the entire rice industry. And, 60 rice crops after than initial planting, Aguzzi still makes the first pass of the levees that cover his rice fields each year.

Eric Webster, Ph.D., specializes in rice weed management research at the Louisiana State University AgCenter.  His work has led to significant improvements in rice weed control through herbicide use and cultural control methods, and he has produced a weed ID field guide used by producers and consultants alike.  Webster also was instrumental in the development of imidazolinone-resistant rice, sold under the trade name Clearfield Rice.

Elton Kennedy is a longtime farmer from West Carroll Parish, LA, who has evolved into the rice handling and milling business.  He served for 20 years as a director of Riviana Foods, Inc. of Houston, TX, and is a founding partner of Planters Rice Mill.  Kennedy is known throughout the industry for his creative water management systems engineered to promote higher rice yields, transforming marginal land into productive rice fields.

The Rice Awards are sponsored by Rice Farming magazine, Horizon Ag and the USA Rice Federation.

Farm Bill Talks Continue

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) on Thursday said a deal on the farm bill is emerging, though nothing has been finalized.

He said that while finishing the bill by the time the House recesses on Dec. 13 would be "Herculean," he does not yet want Congress to move to a one-month extension.

"As Sen. [Debbie] Stabenow [D-Mich.] says, nothing is every done until all the parts are complete. Maybe Sen. Stabenow is right," Lucas said. "It would still be my hope that we could get all of our work done in time to not require an extension."

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for a stopgap farm measure on Thursday to avoid a spike in milk prices in early January.

But Lucas said he believes the Agriculture Department would hold off on implementing the dairy policies if a farm bill is moving through Congress.

Lucas said the farm bill negotiations are progressing, but not far enough for him to brief Boehner and other congressional leaders on a potential deal."We are not far enough along in our discussions yet," he said.

The leaders of the House-Senate farm bill conference are still awaiting Congressional Budget Office scores, including one on a potential farm subsidy compromise. Without passage of the $1 trillion farm bill or a one-month extension of the 2008 version, milk prices could spike in January.

The details of the potential compromise are murky, but Senate Democrats are widely believed to be considering abandoning their hard line against additional food stamp cuts beyond the $4 billion included in the Senate-passed farm bill.

"We are moving toward consensus," Lucas said when asked about the food stamp program. The House originally wanted $39 billion in cuts, but appears to be willing to accept less.

Port Of Baton Rouge Expands

South Louisiana grain farmers are expected to benefit from the presence of a new tenant at the Port of Baton Rouge, according to LSU AgCenter economist Mike Salassi.

Salassi said having Louis Dreyfus Commodities as a new buyer in the area grain market is good for producers because of more competition.

"Being a new additional market player on the buyer's side, the existence of Louis Dreyfus in the grain market should have a positive impact on producer prices, resulting from an increase in demand," Salassi said. "With the facility expansion currently being completed, Louis Dreyfus has the goal of significantly increasing the throughput at the facility to load grain on large ships for direct export."

The presence of Louis Dreyfus coincides with increased Louisiana grain production in the past few years, Salassi said. "Having local buyers with sufficient storage capacity to be able to easily handle these larger grain volumes is a tremendous advantage for growers in Louisiana."

Although the facility is operational, much of the expansion is ongoing or in the planning stages for more than $150 million in improvements.

"We've got another year of construction for sure," said David Bollich, commercial manager for Louis Dreyfus.

Bollich said that to build the new facilities, Louis Dreyfus had to shut down grain-handling operations after the 2011 harvest. Enough of the work was finished by late summer to receive and ship grain from this year's harvest.

Hall of Distinction Nominees

We are accepting nominations for the 2014 Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction. Nominations are open to anyone connected with Louisiana agriculture including any person who has passed away. Nomination forms can be found at our website

A panel representing the Louisiana Farm Bureau Agri-News Radio Network, LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry will select the inductees.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

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