CROWLEY, LA — Yesterday, USA Rice staff from Louisiana organized a tour of the Louisiana rice industry for Congressman Clay Higgins. Higgins was accompanied by in-state and Washington, DC staff because he felt it was important for him and his staff to learn first-hand about Louisiana rice. In his introductory comments, Higgins said, “I’m interested in serving Louisiana and what I don’t know, I’m willing to learn.”

The day began at the Louisiana State University H. Rousse Caffey Rice Research Station with Dr. Steve Linscombe providing an overview of the history of rice production in Louisiana and a discussion about today’s rice industry. Dr. Linscombe emphasized the importance of the breeding projects conducted at the station to create new rice varieties and the advancements made to improve yield. Kevin Berken, a rice farmer from Thornwell, emphasized that “we have doubled yields over the last 40 years and we will have to double yields again in the next 40 years to feed the people.”

Congressman Higgins also visited Zaunbrecher Farms in Rayne, where a group of local farmers gathered to welcome him. Fred Zaunbrecher introduced Higgins and asked him to share his views on several issues, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Higgins said, “Our approach to NAFTA right now is to be surgical. Whatever is working to benefit American business and industry, we want to leave alone, and whatever is hurting American business and industry, we want to fix it.”

Zaunbrecher also spoke about the crawfish-rice double cropping system and the challenges that some south Louisiana farms are having with white spot disease. Higgins was eager to accept Fred’s invitation to ride in a crawfish boat and harvest crawfish, and thanked the group gathered there for welcoming him to the farm. Zaunbrecher replied, “The more you understand us, the better we can communicate and the more work we can do together.”

Higgins and his staff also toured Supreme Rice Mill. CEO Bobby Hanks thanked Higgins for the role he and his office played in the recent Iraqi purchase of U.S. rice. Higgins said he “wrote a very passionate letter to the Secretary of State and worked through key Congressional committees” to express his concerns and “was pleased to hear about the announcement of the recent purchase of U.S. rice, much of that originating out of Louisiana.” Higgins called the purchase a “great first step” in fulfilling the agreements on rice set in the Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of the United States and Iraq.

The day finished with a crawfish boil at Christian Richard’s farm. Almost 50 people attended and had an opportunity to interact with the Congressman. Higgins ended the tour by saying, “What’s good for our district is good for Louisiana, what’s good for Louisiana is good for America, and what’s good for America is good for the rest of the world.”

Carrie Castille, USA Rice

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