Dictionary catches up to industry’s long-time sustainability efforts

• By Kane Webb •

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Agrilectric Power of Lake Charles, Louisiana — photo by Kane Webb, USA Rice

“Our Past,” a daily column that appears in the Lake Charles American Press, pulls memorable stories from local news printed on the same day from 10, 25, 50 and 75 years ago. Recently, the southwest Louisiana rice industry was mentioned for two stories covered on the same day in 2009, 10 years ago: announcement of the 73rd International Rice Festival Queen Amber Comeaux of Hathaway, Louisiana, and a story celebrating Agrilectric’s 25th anniversary.

Included in the Agrilectric story was the following excerpt: “Agrilectric Power of Lake Charles, the first plant of its kind in the world when it was dedicated in 1984, marked its 25th anniversary Wednesday. Nanette Noland is the owner and president, and Carl Kiser is the plant manager. The late Willis Noland was president when it opened. L.L. ‘Bud’ Feikert designed and constructed the plant with the McBurney Corp. as subcontractor.”

For 35 years, Agrilectric Power has produced electricity by burning rice hulls from Farmers Rice Mill, located next door to the plant, supplying power for the milling operation and then providing any excess power to the local grid.

“While sustainability seems to be a new initiative in many industries, the U.S. rice industry has been at it for some time,” said Jennifer James, an Arkansas rice farmer and chair of the USA Rice Sustainability Committee.

In fact in 1984, the New Webster’s Dictionary did not include the word “sustainability,” while today’s online version not only includes “sustainability” but also a reference to “sustainable techniques” and “sustainable agriculture.”

“Agrilectric’s power generation, plus precision water use, conservation tillage and winter flooding to create wildlife habitat are just some of the historic practices integral to the U.S. rice industry sustainability story,” James said. “This newsworthy ‘look back’ proves how long we’ve been at it — it just took Merriman-Webster time to catch up!”

This article first appeared in USA Rice’s “Rice Daily” newsletter.