Friday, April 12, 2013

Rice growers shrug off fluctuations

As busy as farmers are, it's great to find those who will let you come by to take photos of their operations at a moment's notice, give you all the time that you need and invite you back to see some upcoming event, such as planting or harvest. Rice grower Larry Maben of Willows definitely fits into that category, as he has been a big help to me on several rice stories over the last few years and welcomed me to his fields today to chronicle the task of leveling the ground in preparation for planting.

In the pictures, Jose Rodrigues (top) and Russel Maben (bottom two) drag fields to level them in preparation for adding a thin veneer of water to the surface, which the Mabens will do before flying over with rice seed later this month.

The photos are for a follow-up story to this Wall Street Journal piece on some farmers in the South giving up on growing rice in favor of other crops. Industry folks are telling me that some fluctuations in acreage in the South are normal, as growers rotate in and out with other commodities for a variety of reasons. That's less the case in California, where the ground that's suitable for growing rice isn't really suitable for much else. Interestingly, an official from the USA Rice Federation said she spent some time talking with the WSJ reporter and sent him some background information, and none of it was included in the story. Maybe the information didn't fit a predetermined narrative? Who knows?

Anyway, look for my story at early next week.

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