Rice Farming

 - From the Publisher -

A new year – a fresh start

By Lia Guthrie

I tend to get up early. My staff can attest to that by the number of emails waiting in their inbox before they arrive in the office each morning. But there is just something about the anticipation of the day’s upcoming events that seems to rouse me out of bed. I like the early morning and the accomplishments of what a new day could bring. No matter how difficult the day before, there is something about the renewal of a sunrise. It reminds me of how my father felt at the beginning of a new crop year. While he understood there would be no “perfect” season, the optimism of a new crop was invigorating.

Gone with the Wind is one of my all-time favorite movies. No doubt there were obstacles to overcome, but in the end – those obstacles shaped the character of many of the roles played. While the title Gone With the Wind is not how I would describe the rice industry, the parallel of challenges seems poignant.

However, even Scarlett O’Hara saw the significance of a new day. Whenever she was faced with something she didn’t particularly like, her response was, “I won’t think about that today. I’ll think about that tomorrow,” as if the solution would magically appear once a new day began. Maybe she felt her perspective would be different…or her strength would be renewed…or just that a new day offered a fresh start.

For rice, the dawn of that new day is rapidly approaching. While dawn is the first appearance of light in the morning, it also means to “begin to appear or develop; to begin to be understood,” according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary that sits on my desk.

The rice industry has experienced many challenges in the past few years – low prices, limited access to the Cuban market, hurricanes and the discovery of the adventitious presence of LL601. In 2007, there also was no lack of political issues to contend with as we experienced the slow development of a new Farm Bill with rice and cotton clearly the un-favored sons.

That said, with each sunrise, there is hope. And while hope is not necessarily a strategy, it does offer a promise for the future. The 2008 year should bring some clarity to legislation. And while sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t, there is hope that our friends in Washington will provide our farmers with an acceptable Farm Bill. Another positive thing to consider is Rep. Jo Ann Emerson’s (R-MO) remark in her speech at the USA Rice Outlook Conference that the rice industry has done an “amazing job” in growing its ranks and clout in Washington.

More good news is that the test results for the 2007 U.S. long-grain rice crop show the overwhelming absence of genetically engineered rice traits, according to USA Rice Federation vice president Bob Cummings. And in the technology arena, precision ag tools, including farm networks, offer modern alternatives to help rice farmers run their operations more efficiently.

The essence of this industry is evolution with each decade showing advancement. Yes, there are some things that we cannot change, and some things we have no control over.

But with each passing day comes more experience, more wisdom and perhaps a better appreciation and understanding. I hope each of us will remain steadfast as we continue to fight for improvements, accept there will always be obstacles, but mostly, embrace this dawn of a new era.

“After all,” to quote Scarlet, “tomorrow is another day.”