“Whatever means it takes to reach a successful end, the resiliency of human nature proves that anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it.” This was the closing sentence in my Editor’s Note for the March issue of Rice Farming. As it turns out, that thought also mirrors the theme of the article on Page 16: “High Speed Rail Loading.” This special report tells the story of a group of south Louisiana farmers, who, despite hearing numerous comments like “Don’t count on it” and “You’ll never get it done,” were able to raise $780,000 in a relatively short time to help fund a high speed rail loading grain facility to gain access to new markets.
One of their fund-raising efforts involved holding five community meetings to explain the project and ask for $5,000 contributions. The beauty of these gatherings is that they weren’t restricted just to farmers, landowners and other ag-related entities. The whole community was invited!
Mark Pousson, a rice farmer from Welsh, La., had made a presentation at one of these meetings, and, afterward, was approached by a gentleman who handed him a check for $5,000. Many other people had ponied up their money that night, too, but this man was different. He had never grown a grain of rice or owned an acre of farm land. It just so happened that this man had retired from UPS.
When asked why he felt compelled to contribute to the grain facility project, the gentleman told Mark, “We have to have you (farmers). If we don’t have you, this country is gone.”
As Mark was reminded of their project by a line in my editorial, this scene reminded me of the financial challenges that our university Extension and research programs are experiencing in our rice-growing states. We need them, or we are sunk. I realize that it is not an easy undertaking for the appropriate people to have to approach state legislatures and USDA to do everything they can to try to keep their Extension and research budgets healthy. I certainly don’t have a silver-bullet answer to this dilemma.
However, I did notice one thing that might be worth considering. LSU AgCenter entomologist Natalie Hummel recently tweeted, “Tell your story of how Extension touched your life.” Imagine a campaign involving farmers, ag-related entities and regular folks in the community telling their own such stories and sending them to state legislators and the powers-that-be who hold the purse strings on Capitol Hill. This might just help sway a few more dollars toward our outstanding Extension and research personnel, programs and facilities. You never know when that much-needed money might be appropriated in the most unexpected way.
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