AgFax Rice Review: Drought Batters CA Farmers; “Rice Culture” Explains Societal Differences
- Oryza.com reports that the European Union has imported over 670,000 tons of rice since the beginning of the crop year, an 11% increase over last year.
- Oryza.com reports that the Vietnamese government plans to shift 112,000 hectares of rice land in the country’s Mekong River Delta to other grains such as corn and wheat in order to decrease import costs of those crops. Farmers are ready to make the switch as growing rice requires more money and preparation before planting and they expect to see greater returns on the grain crops.
- Edward Ortiz reports for the Sacramento Bee that the California drought has a lot of rice growers fallowing fields or switching to less water intensive crops due to lack of irrigation water allotments. While the decline in acreage isn’t expected to be felt by consumers, it’s going to have a major impact on both local economies and the environment. Farmers will earn less, even where they’re able to switch to other crops, less seed will be sold, and less rice will go to mills and on up the value chain. Additionally fallowed fields will likely not be flooded this winter, depriving habitats to migratory birds and water fowl, and even some the fields that will be flooded won’t be as attractive or beneficial without the decaying organic matter from harvested rice stalks.
- Tim Hearden reports for Capital Press that lack of water allocations has slowed California’s rice planting down considerably. While April rains boosted the amount of water many growers would receive, water districts have decided to delay water releases to help control water temperatures for winter run salmon. As a result, farmers are facing a long, drawn-out planting season, with many having only recently started planting when most would be wrapping up now. Many growers are expecting to be planting on into June.
- The Advocate reports that warmer temperatures in Louisiana has sped up rice planting which is considerably behind its normal pace but ahead of last year. The cool, wet spring has delayed planting considerably, but the crop overall looks to be in good condition and the late planting does not necessarily mean a hurt on yields. Extension Agent Steven Linscombe notes that last year’s later planted crop saw some of the best yields the state’s ever had, though if the summer turns out to be too hot during the crop’s flowering period it would have a major negative impact on yields. Acreage is expected to increase 10,000-15,000 acres over last season, with more medium-grain varieties planted than normal due to the decline in California production.
On the Lighter Side
- A new psychological study has found there may be a correlation between crops grown by a region’s ancestors and modern cultural thinking, which is being called “rice culture”. It’s been long noted that Western cultures are much more individualistic while Asian cultures are more cooperative and group oriented. The new study indicates this may be an indirect result of age old farming practices ingrained into the societies’ social mindset. Western areas tended to grow more wheat, a relatively simple crop that could be grown by a single family and thus promoted a strong individualist identity. Asian countries traditionally grew more rice, where the entire village had to cooperate for planting, flooding, and the building and maintaining of irrigation networks, promoting a more holistic mindset where the individual is less important than the group as a whole.
Some Grain Belt analysts question USDA’s latest 2016 farm income estimates as overly optimistic. They doubt growers were able to shed as much in input costs this season as USDA’s