By Kane Webb, USA Rice
LAKE CHARLES - Webster's Dictionary first defines the word "harvest" as a noun - gathering of any crop, season gathered, quantity reaped, or reward of effort. As a verb, it means to reap.
For the past several weeks in Louisiana, harvest has been taking place in all facets of the word. Rice farmers here have been in the fields working long hours and dodging rain showers so they can continue harvesting (verb). But when you visit with them, they refer to the reward of their efforts as this year's harvest (noun).
"Yields are up," says Paul Johnson, who farms south of the Thornwell area. "We're not breaking any records, but it's better than the last two years, and that's good news. We are finished with our crop, but are helping a few neighbors get caught up."
Further north, in Acadia Parish, Jackie Loewer echoed a similar report, "Yields are steady, but the milling quality we've seen so far has been great, and that's encouraging." Loewer also said they had been fortunate in that "the weather has been a little more cooperative for us."
Others seemed to be catching less of a break when it comes to rain.
Ross Hebert, who farms south of Abbeville, said he's had his share of rain slowing down the harvest this year. "It seems like every day, there's a patch of green on the radar, and it's on us. We had to stop yesterday afternoon when the sun was shining because it was sprinkling rain so now it's raining while the sun shines -- time to get this rice out of the field! The yields are better, and I'm pleased about that, but moisture levels are lower than we'd like, and continue to fall each day."
Christian Richard, working in the field near Cossinade, north of Kaplan, had switched from the draper header to a stripper header on his John Deere combine. "With afternoon showers slowing us down, changing over to the stripper header will help make up some time, and we can get these last 300 acres in the bins a little sooner."
In Allen Parish, near Kinder, Eric Unkel said they still have about 800 acres to harvest. "If we can get a few full days in the field, I'd feel a lot better. Most of the growers I've talked to have said yield and quality are a little better, so there is a silver lining to these clouds. However, this year was an expensive crop due to added pumping cost so we need everything to count."
Whether at the end, in the middle of, or just beginning rice harvest, hopefully the consistent affirmation of these reports keeps Louisiana farmers optimistic that the reward is worth the effort this harvest season.