It has taken a lot of time and work (mostly by other people), but last week we finally got some good news in the pivot rice world. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency board of directors approved the application to provide crop insurance coverage for producers who want to grow rice with pivots. This means that by as early as next spring producers will be able to insure their pivot-irrigated rice crop. This decision comes at an opportune time, as weakening corn and soybean prices and decent rice price trends are increasing the interest in rice among farmers.
The real winners, in my opinion, are growers who want the flexibility to incorporate rice into their other crop rotations. This will make it more feasible to grow rice in non-traditional locations like upland, sloping, and sandy soils. It is particularly significant now that the new Farm Bill places increased emphasis on crop insurance as the backbone of its programs. More and more lenders are insisting on crop insurance as a prerequisite for funding operating loans, and this helps make that happen.
The best news is that this gives farmers another tool to increase their efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. The reduction in water use, pumping requirements, and greenhouse gas emissions will not only make their operations more profitable, but also more ecologically sound and sustainable — “green,” in today’s parlance.
The initial rollout of this program will be in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas, places where there has been interest and research, as well as areas where water is, or will become, a limiting factor in production. I am hopeful that, as the program grows and matures, other areas will be added.Our participation in this effort has been very interesting. It was never about selling pivots; rather, the effort has always been to define and offer to farmers the tools to increase efficiency and profit, while maintaining their ability to keep farming in a sustainable manner. Adding rice to a corn/soybean/cotton rotation (or some variation) can also help manage the problem of herbicide-resistant weeds that is rapidly growing throughout the country.
I just looked at the blog post I wrote back in April. Wow, have things changed since then! At that time, our local soil conditions were exceptionally dry, after a long, cold, dry winter. I was worried that there would be real problems getting a crop out of the ground. Of course now, at the beginning of July, many people are begging for the rain (and associated violent storms) to stop. It has turned into a relatively cool, very wet spring; so much so that some growers in my area have had to replant twice—once due to frost and a second time due to flood.For those who have escaped the disasters, however, growing conditions have been quite good, and many of the crops I see in my travels around the Midwest and upper Delta look excellent.
Weather is one of the vagaries of farming that we try to manage, but cannot control. I hope that things go well for you this summer, and I look forward to checking in again with further updates.
Be safe, enjoy the summer, and stay in touch. Let us know how things are going where you are.