If the adage for a writer is to write about what you know, then, at this time, I have to write about water, which is particularly fitting since rice is an aquatic crop.
Let’s start with Texas, where Mother Nature has seen fit to withhold this precious resource, which rice farmers need so desperately. Of course, producers can pump water onto their fields from wells, but it would be nice if they got a little help from the sky. Kevin Hoffman, who is primarily a row-crop farmer south of Eagle Lake, says they haven’t had a rain since the first of February. Water, for them, is like a long-lost friend, whom they haven’t seen in quite a while.
Hoffman is also a man who likes to try different things. Last year and this year, he is experimenting with a field of pivot-irrigated rice (page 12). Although it is a learning process, he says the biggest advantage to him is pushing a button, and, in six hours, he is done. “It’s a lot easier on my body and on my mind,” Hoffman says.
Now, consider the Mid-South, which is dealing with the wrath of the overflowing Mighty Mississippi. Rice farmers who are trying to get in a crop or save a crop near this Old Man are praying the levees hold. Rice likes water, but not 10 feet of it. As of this writing on May 8, everyone is holding their breath, and water is taking on enemy potential.
In the Missouri Bootheel where a couple of levees were blown on purpose, it is heart-wrenching to watch the television interviews with producers who are looking out over a lake, which used to be their farm land. The raw emotion on their faces is hard to take. And in east-central Louisiana, where I grew up and my Dad farmed, reports of farmers moving their equipment to high ground and hoping they’ll be spared puts a knot in my stomach.
The “good” news about water for rice farmers is in California, where, after 50 years, the fight over surface water from the Yuba River has finally been resolved with the Lower Yuba River Accord – an agreement among urban, environmental and agricultural interests (page 6). The Yuba-Wheatland Canal Project now provides farmers with a reliable source of surface water for irrigation for agricultural lands within the Wheatland Water District. It’s been a long time coming for rice farmers in an area historically deficient in water.
Water – friend, foe or fought over – is on the minds of many of our U.S. rice farmers today. Whichever category you fall in, I sincerely hope the best for all of you.
Send your comments to: Editor, Rice Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Call (901) 767-4020 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.