Rice, whose plantings are dwarfed by the millions of corn, soybeans, and cotton acres in the U.S., could see its acreage climb this spring.
The grain is projected to steal more than 400,000 acres from other commodities this year, according to USDA’s Prospective Plantings report.
U.S. acres of all rice are projected to climb 17% to 3.064 million acres. And planting intentions in three states—Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas—are up substantially.
Delayed planting and drought in Texas and much of the West sharply reduced rice acres last year, said Ted Wilson, director of the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Research Center at Beaumont, Texas. Rice prices are also not as depressed as prices for corn, soybeans, and cotton, Wilson said.
“Good planting conditions are also favoring rice,” Wilson noted. “And the relaxing of drought is helping rice acres rebound.” If USDA’s Prospective Plantings projections play out this year, Wilson said that rice acres will rebound to pre-drought levels.
In Arkansas, the country’s number one rice-producing state, all rice acres are expected to climb 275,000 acres, to 1.58 million, a 21% year-over-year increase.
“The Arkansas rice crop is up because other crop returns are not as favorable, and U.S. rice markets are showing some strength,” said Eric Wailes, agricultural economist with the University of Arkansas.
Chuck Wilson, director of the Rice Research and Extension Center at the University of Arkansas agrees. “It’s all about price,” Wilson said. “Dry, warm weather has also been conducive to planting rice. I knew going into it that if planting conditions were favorable in March and April, we would plant a lot more rice in Arkansas.”
Mississippi growers are expected to plant 220,000 acres of rice, or 128,000 more acres to rice this year, up 47% from last year, also due to favorable planting conditions and profit potential.
Texas growers intend to plant 56,000 more acres of rice this year, or 189,000 total acres, a 42% year-over-year increase. Most of those acres will be planted in Matagorda, Wharton, and Colorado counties, where soils are lighter, and where some growers were unable to plant anything last year.
“Drought began to lift in those counties last year. The water levels in the reservoirs started to increase,” Wilson said, and water contracts are now being honored by the Lower Colorado River Authority.