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Brought to you by USA Rice

By Kane Webb

CROWLEY, LA – Last week, freshman Representative Julia Letlow (R-LA), who represents Louisiana’s 5th District, toured the area to meet with the state’s rice industry leaders.

Letlow and her staff started the day in Lake Charles where they met with Mayor Nik Hunter for an update on the progress of recovery efforts there in the wake of last year’s Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Officials with the Port of Lake Charles, Jonathan Ringo and Therrance Chretien, provided an overview on the status of repairs, along with statistics highlighting the importance of the bagged rice cargo business, particularly that earmarked for Iraqi and USDA food aid vessels. A majority of that rice gets bagged at Farmers Rice Milling Company (FRM) in Lake Charles, and FRM’s Phillip Bertrand and Robert Bond, told Letlow about the challenges their company has faced over the past year, repairing and rebuilding facilities to get their business back operating at full capacity.

Heading east, the group met with rice and crawfish farmer Allen Lawson at his farm north of Crowley. Harvest there was in full swing so Letlow and her staff took a pass or two on a combine and cart to experience firsthand the technology involved in today’s farming operations.

At lunchtime, a group of growers and industry representatives from the region gathered at the Town Club in Crowley. USA Rice Chair Bobby Hanks, president and CEO of Supreme Rice Mill, led the discussion there that touched on trade, market concerns, and what the future holds for U.S. agriculture.

“We appreciate the opportunity to spend time with Congresswoman Letlow and her staff, sharing our thoughts on the importance of the rice industry here in Louisiana and elsewhere throughout the U.S.,” said Hanks. “Anytime we can showcase our industry to Members of Congress, we build relationships for USA Rice that reach beyond the boundaries of individual districts.”

Hanks gave Letlow and her team a tour of Supreme Rice Mill that featured substantial improvements to their facilities including sponsorship of the newly upgraded high school baseball field located near the office. Another Crowley stop was at JohnPac’s manufacturing shop where Taylor Gray and Mary Ellen Henry explained the process of bag production, and the important role their company plays in support of the U.S. rice industry.

The final stop was at the Harper Planting Partnership in Cheneyville, a diversified farm run by Jim and Ross Harper that produces rice, sugarcane, soybeans, crawfish, and cattle. Discussions there touched on nearly every aspect of agriculture in south Louisiana.

“Everyone in our district understands that Representative Letlow is a newcomer in Congress and may not be familiar with all aspects of our industry,” said Julie Richard, who attended the luncheon in Crowley and farms with her husband, Christian, near Kaplan. “She has done a remarkable job so far, and her presence on the House Ag Committee is important for all farmers in our state as we prepare for an upcoming Farm Bill. The continuation of our Louisiana delegation working together is a great benefit for the rice industry and a key reason that we continue to communicate with all of our Louisiana congressional delegates.”