The LSU AgCenter continued to work with the Kellogg Co. during the past year on a sustainability program for rice farmers. The result is a Master Rice Grower program that will be offering incentives for farmers to adopt conservation practices through the Louisiana Master Farmer Program. “Through our close collaboration with Kellogg over the past two years, we have been able to come up with a defined sustainability program for the Louisiana producers who have grown rice for the company,” says Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station.
Linscombe said many producers already have fulfilled some requirements under the program to achieve incentives. Likewise, John Morgan of Louisiana Rice Mill said many farmers already meet some or all of the requirements and may only have to fill out paperwork to receive the incentive payments for the 2013 crop.
“We have a good farmer base interested,” Morgan says. “At least 100 farmers probably are interested.”
Qualifying For Incentives
Linscombe said the tiered program – with four levels – will provide premiums for growers who attain the three highest levels. To reach the highest of the four levels, participants must complete all phases of the Master Farmer Program as well as meet other program requirements.
The four levels start at bronze, the initial phase of participation, which involves the first portion of the Master Farmer Program that includes eight hours of classroom instruction. The silver level, with an initial financial incentive, requires documentation of farming practices and Phase 2 of the Master Farmer Program, which involves attendance of a rice production field day at a model farm. Farmers who want to reach the gold level, with an additional incentive, must complete the development of an approved conservation plan, which is a first step toward Phase 3 of the Master Farmer Program. In addition, more documentation of the practices done on their farms will be required. At the top or platinum level, farmers will be paid the maximum incentive for implementing their conservation plans, achieving Phase 3 of the Master Farmer Program and showing the highest level of commitment and expertise in their production programs.
“The program has incentives to address the ultimate goals of enhancing the sustainability of Kellogg’s products, as well as providing for advantages for the producer,” Linscombe says, adding that the biggest investment farmers have to make is their time to attend Master Farmer Program classes. “Participation in the Master Farmer Program will be a benefit to any farmer.” Record-keeping requirements of the program also will be useful to any farmer, Linscombe said, and the program will provide information on cost-sharing programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Sustainability will only become increasingly important for many of our rice customers and end users,” Linscombe says. “This program will set the standard for programs to be developed for rice and other crops.”
“Master Rice Grower” was published in the 2013 Louisiana Rice Research Board Annual Report.