Marketplace alternatives

South Louisiana Rail Facility is encouraging to area rice farmers.

By Dwight Roberts
President and Chief Executive
Officer, USRPA

No one said it would be easy. But faced with adversity, rice farmers in southwest Louisiana have been making it happen. Just like the movie Field of Dreams says, “Build it and they will come.”

What once was a dream is now a reality as rail cars are being loaded with rough rice and making their way to the rice mills in Mexico, giving rice farmers an alternative that once never existed. This option compares to the one the Mississippi River gives farmers in the Delta region to participate in the export market for rough rice throughout the Western Hemisphere. Without the rail site, area farmers did not have access to the largest long-grain rice market in the world.

As one of Mexico’s major buyers mentioned recently, “This facility is the best, most modern and efficient rail loading station in the United States, and the ability to load good quality rough rice is a positive development, meaning the cars come directly to our mill from the farmer.”

With an excellent location on Interstate 10 near the town of Lacassine, on-site truck scales, two one-mile rail spurs and an elevator capacity of 25,000 bushels-perhour with 160,000 bushels of on-site storage, Mexican rice importers have become frequent visitors to the area. These visits are not only to the rail site but to the farms, fields, duck ponds and wherever they can find good Cajun food, too.

A 25,000-bushels-per-hour Compuweigh rail scale provides weights to go with the Federal Grain Inspection Service grading room also on-site. Trucks discharge in four minutes thanks to covered, dual unloading pits. A working relationship with Union Pacific and Burlington Northern is improving constantly.

From Idea To Reality

The initiative of a small group of Louisiana rice farmers from the Jeff Davis Parish has led to their original idea becoming a reality. Governor Bobby Jindal, Agricultural Commissioner Mike Strain, State Senator Dan Morrish and State Representative John Guinn provided the needed political support, but it was the grassroots farmers who carried the ball to make it happen. The US Rice Producers Association has helped market the facility in Mexico as a part of the organization’s trade servicing activities and outreach program. Giving farmers alternatives in the marketplace strikes at the core of the association’s focus in Latin America.

The ability to ship identity preserved rice has become an added benefit for Mexican buyers. Mexico, although considered not to be as sensitive as other markets on quality, began importing milled rice from South America in an effort to get the desired grain characteristics. The South Louisiana Rail Facility has opened buyers’ eyes to their options to buy and load specific varieties for their consumers. Once unheard of, buyers from Mexico are grading rice and selecting the varieties they prefer that can easily be isolated and loaded on rail cars.

This facility and the sales of rice to Mexico would not have been possible without the efforts of the Louisiana Independent Rice Producers Association, a group of grassroot farmers working on behalf of rice farmers throughout the State of Louisiana.

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