Officials with the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry met recently with representatives of the Kellogg Co. to work on details for a Master Rice Grower program that will encourage sustainable farming practices.
“We are confident that this will be a positive program for farmers who grow rice for Kellogg, and they can become eligible to be compensated for their stewardship efforts,” said Steve Linscombe, director of the Rice Research Station. “Many farmers are already doing what will be included in the program.”
The Master Rice Grower program is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, and it could be ready to present to farmers in June.
A component of the Master Rice Grower program will include the Louisiana Master Farmer program that aims to help farmers adopt soil and water conservation practices.
Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, said changes to the Louisiana Master Farmer program will improve the process to become certified as a Master Farmer. The LSU AgCenter is working with LDAF and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to enable more farmers to achieve the final levels of the Master Farmer program certification.
“Many farmers have completed two of the three phases of the program, but they have not advanced further,” Coreil said. “We are close to finalizing improvements to the program that will help more farmers become certified and meet Louisiana Master Farmer and Kellogg sustainability requirements.”
Mike Strain, LDAF commissioner, said the improvements to the program will enhance the rice industry’s environmental profile.
"I am excited to partner with Kellogg, the LSU AgCenter and other groups to ensure the quality and sustainability of Louisiana rice as we create an option to enhance the capacity for Louisiana Master Farmer certification,” Strain said. “I have confidence that the LSU AgCenter's commitment to the Master Farmer Program will lead to increased development and implementation of on-farm conservation plans to address Louisiana's soil and water conservation standards and sustainability goals."
Bill Dore of Louisiana Rice Mill said the program will strengthen the relationship between the Louisiana rice industry and Kellogg. “They are the most important rice buyer in Louisiana.”
One of the key aspects of the Master Rice Grower program is recognition of the contribution that rice farming makes to waterfowl habitat. Officials from Ducks Unlimited attended the meeting to voice their support.
Jerry Holden with Ducks Unlimited said maintaining habitat for waterfowl is critical. “It’s one of DU’s five highest priorities on the continent. Rice is really good for ducks,” he said.