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State's rice crop in; could approach yield record set in 2007

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi producers have the bulk of the state’s rice crop safely in storage, and yields may approach the record set in 2007 of 160 bushels an acre.

Nathan Buehring, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said September’s weather was nearly ideal for rice harvest.

“Isaac slowed us down and put a little bit of rice on the ground that was ready to harvest, but overall, the harvest season has gone pretty well,” he said.

Mississippi planted only 125,000 acres of rice in 2012 and dropped to No. 5 nationally in rice production, behind Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Missouri. Texas came in at No. 6. On Sept. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the state’s crop was 71 percent harvested. Buehring estimated it had risen to about 85 percent complete in the following week.

Even though rice comes in behind soybeans, corn and cotton in value to Mississippi producers, it is still a significant crop.

“Rice is an important crop in Mississippi because a lot of jobs are tied to it,” Buehring said. “More importantly, it’s a good rotational crop with soybeans. A lot of our heavier ground is not as suitable for corn or cotton, but it can be used for rice production.”

Rice’s acres came up short this year because market prices favored soybeans and corn. Rice is irrigated by flooding the field, so the drought that has ravaged the Midwest has had little effect on rice.

John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said rice prices have been falling since mid-August, when U.S. yields were reported to be larger than initially expected.

“More importantly, a near-record level of global production has kept prices in check,” Riley said. “Rough rice prices have fallen from about $16 per hundredweight about one month ago to the current level of about $14.80 per hundredweight.”

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