Evangeline Parish area legislators attending included: Representative Bernard LeBas from Ville Platte, and Representative Mickey Guillory from Eunice.
Jackie Loewer, rice producer and chairman of the Louisiana Rice Research Board, said the session was requested to inform new senators and representatives about rice.
Legislators asked a variety of questions regarding rice farming, including long-term effects of Hurricane Ike.
Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station here, said the damaging effects from storm surge may not be as bad or as widespread as the damage from Hurricane Rita in 2005.
Linscombe told legislators research at the Rice Research Station includes development of new lines of coastal plants, using native species that could reduce coastal losses.
Rep. Jonathan Perry of Abbeville said storm-related losses to the state’s economy could total $1 billion. “This is a perfect example of how important coastal restoration is,” he said.
Bobby Hanks, chief executive officer of Louisiana Rice Mill, gave legislators an overview of the milling process and the rice export situation.
Hanks said the overseas market is vital to the U.S. rice trade. He said the Cuban market has excellent potential for the United States, with a rice demand equal to Louisiana’s annual rice production.
Sen. Dan Morrish of Jennings said a pending capital outlay request would fund improvements at the Port of Lake Charles for a bulk grain facility that would help the rice industry.
“This facility would be a joint effort run by the producers and the mills,” Morrish said.
Sen. Francis Thompson of Delhi, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the hearing was highly beneficial to legislators.
“I think you could see the interest in their eyes,” he said.
Thompson said the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station exemplifies how research funding can result in dividends that pay for the initial investments.
“This research center has proven its worth many, many times,” he said. “It continues to be a leader in research. If you want to see real research, go to the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.”
Thompson said all 20 LSU AgCenter research stations have benefitted the state.
“They are the bedrock of agriculture in Louisiana,” he said.
A total of 15 legislators attended the event.
(Writer was Bruce Schultz for the Louisiana Ag Center.)