Where Is Rice Grown?

Nearly 85% of the rice we eat in the USA is grown by American farmers. Each year, 18 billion pounds of rice are grown and harvested by local farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. The U.S. rice industry is unique in its ability to produce all types of rice—long, medium and short grain, as well as aromatic and specialty varieties.

California

California
California ranks as the second-largest rice-growing state in the U.S. The majority of rice is grown in the Sacramento Valley, where hot days and cool nights—along with clay soil that holds on to virtually every drop of moisture—create the perfect conditions for growing California’s distinctive japonica rice. The sticky, moist characteristics of japonica varieties make them ideal for Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. In fact, California rice is highly prized all over the world—particularly in Asia and portions of the Middle East.

History

The roots of the California rice industry were planted deeply in dreams—dreams of gold, to be exact. The lure of precious metal drew adventurous spirits from around the world, including many Chinese immigrants. As dreams turned into hard reality, many Chinese immigrants became part of the labor force on railroads and gold fields; the high cost of feeding them with rice (a staple of their diet) became difficult. During the Gold Rush era, the huge and hungry state had to import most of its food. Farmers who came to seek their fortune in gold realized they might find more success doing what they did back home—growing crops. After decades of trial and error, farmers in Butte County were the first to discover that they had the perfect climate and soil for growing rice. Commercial production began in 1912.

Economy

California rice is grown on approximately 500,000 acres, with the annual crop valued at approximately $780 million. The industry contributes half a billion dollars every year to the state’s economy. It is the foundation for highly skilled, living wage jobs in California and, through exports, all over the world.

Environment

California ricelands provide critical habitat for hundreds of species as the only crop in the state that replicates the once-abundant wetlands. Ducks, geese and shorebirds by the millions nest, feed and rear their young in the state’s rice fields. Most recently, the well-respected Manomet center for conservation sciences designated California ricelands as a Shorebird Habitat of International Significance.

 


Texas

Texas
The upper Texas coast is home to most of the state’s rice production and milling industry. The Texas Rice Belt plays an important environmental, as well as agricultural, role in the coastal prairie. Texas produces mostly long grain rice, which cooks up as separate, fluffy grains. Versatile long grain rice is often used for recipes requiring rice grains with a distinct shape and texture.

History

Rice was first cultivated in Texas primarily for home or local consumption, using pioneer farming methods. Oxen were used to plow small plots, which were planted by hand. The crop depended on rainfall. Commercial production began in earnest in the 1880s—helped along by the railroad, affordable land, immigration from Louisiana and other grain-producing areas and the introduction of modern rice milling. A significant event occurred in 1904, when seed rice from Japan was introduced. The Houston Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Pacific Railroad invited Japanese farmers to Texas to advise local rice producers. The Japanese farmers arrived with seed, a gift from the emperor of Japan. This event was a turning point in the establishment of the Texas rice industry.

Economy

Due to water availability issues, Texas has seen a decrease in rice acres in recent years and now produces about 140,000 acres. Rice production and processing both play important roles, contributing more than $140 million to the state’s economy each year and accounting for thousands of real wage jobs in the state.

Environment

Rice production is unique in its ability to supplement wildlife habitats. Winter-flooded rice fields cover vital fresh water wetland functions in the Upper Texas Gulf Coast ecosystem. Texas rice fields offer forage and roosting habitats for resident, wintering and migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as other wetland-dependent wildlife species.

 


Missouri

Missouri
Southeast Missouri’s Bootheel region is home to the state’s rice industry, producing mainly long grain rice. The “Show Me” state has a proud agricultural tradition. In fact, the statue adorning the dome of the State capitol—often mistaken for Lady Liberty—is that of Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture.

History

George Begley, Jr. first began growing rice in 1910, just north of Dudley in western Stoddard County. Most of the earliest Missouri rice was grown by Arkansas rice farmers who moved to the newly drained and cleared lands in Butler and Ripley counties. Lacking herbicides to control grass weeds and red rice, they cleared new land continuously, and the state’s first rice growers were timber cutters through the late winter months. From the 1950s through 1973, Missouri’s total allotted rice acreage varied from 3,000 to 6,000 acres. After allotments were lifted in 1973, that acreage increased immediately to 14,000, and today that acreage has grown to 150,000.

Economy

Missouri rice producers plant approximately 150,000 acres of rice each year. The annual rice crop contributes more than $150 million to the state’s economy.

Environment

Southern Missouri lies at the bottleneck of the Mississippi Flyway, and flooded rice fields here help to provide an essential stopping point for migrating and wintering waterfowl and other wildlife. Readily available irrigation water, suitable topography and soils, favorable climate and proximity to the Mississippi River all favor the production of rice. Judging by soil types and water availability, the potential exists for more than twice the state’s current rice acreage.

 


Arkansas

Arkansas
If you wish to look deep into the heart of the rice industry, look south. Arkansas ranks first among rice-producing states, accounting for more than 40% of U.S. rice production—primarily long and medium grain varieties. Rice production is concentrated in the eastern half of the state, stretching from the Louisiana to the Missouri borders. Arkansas rice is known for its versatility, used in a wide variety of cuisines. It is enjoyed in the United States and throughout the world.

History

Growers in the prairie lands of Arkansas were in need of a dependable, profitable crop. Rice became a contender almost by accident, when W. H. Fuller ventured southwest to Louisiana in August of 1896 on a hunting trip. It was there he first saw rice growing, which ultimately led to the development of a leading agricultural industry for the state. Fuller, along with his brother-in-law John Morris and John’s wife Emma, are generally credited with founding the Arkansas rice industry. By 1910, rice production, research and milling were established in the state. Today the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie in Stuttgart showcases the history of this major center for U.S. rice production.

Economy

Arkansas grows rice on approximately 1.2 million acres each year. Rice production and processing play important roles in the state. Rice is the state’s second-highest-value commodity and its top agricultural export. The annual rice crop contributes an estimated $1.3 billion to the state’s economy and accounts for approximately 20,000 jobs, crucial to rural communities.

Environment

The managed rice fields and natural wetlands of Arkansas provide the most important wintering area for North America’s mallards. During the winter months, rice farmers capture rain water in rice fields to create vital resting and foraging habitats for migratory and wintering waterfowl. Winter flooding of rice fields also helps to naturally prevent erosion, control weeds and protect soil nutrients.

 


Louisiana

Louisiana
Louisiana’s cuisine is world famous—due in no small part to its rice! Louisiana is one of the nation’s top three rice-producing states, growing mostly long grain rice. While southwestern Louisiana is the primary center for rice production and milling, rice is also grown in the northeastern part of the state.

History

Rice traveled south from the Carolinas to Louisiana with Acadian settlers. Louisiana rice was originally grown for home consumption by utilizing areas that couldn’t be plowed. Farmers tossed rice seeds into wetlands near bayous and ponds. What rice grew from this casual method was deemed “providence rice” by its thankful harvesters. Commercial rice production began in earnest in the second half of the 19th century, helped along by the railroad which transported the crop to New Orleans. Crowley has hosted the International Rice Festival since 1936; today, the event draws more than 150,000 visitors from around the world.

Economy

Louisiana grows rice on approximately 400,000 acres each year, and the annual crop is valued around $360 million. Rice production and processing both play important roles in the state, generating annual economic activity of almost $200 million and accounting for thousands of jobs. Rice is the state’s top agricultural export.

Environment

Louisiana’s rice farmers combine the best of rice farming practices with environmental stewardship. In winter, water can be held on rice fields and provide vital resting areas and a food resource for migrating waterfowl. Rice fields also support other wetland-dependent wildlife species.

 


Mississippi

Mississippi
Rice production is concentrated in the northwestern area of the state. Mississippi rice producers grow long grain rice, which is versatile and widely used.

History

Rex L. Kimbriel, originally a cotton farmer, is credited with launching the commercial rice industry in Mississippi in the late 1940s. By 1953, Mississippi farmers were planting 70,000 acres and producing more than 1.8 million hundredweight of rice. Production practices common to Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas has to be adapted for Mississippi growing conditions. Research at the Delta Branch Experiment Station led to the development of optimal varieties and practices for the rice production in Mississippi. By the mid-1970s, Mississippi rice production was expanding rapidly.

Economy

Agriculture is Mississippi’s number-one industry. The economic activity generated by Mississippi rice production is vital to rural communities and to the state as a whole. Mississippi rice producers plant approximately 130,000 acres of rice each year. The annual rice crop contributes more than $130 million to the state’s economy and accounts for thousands of jobs, both on and off the farm. Rice also ranks as one of the state’s top five agricultural exports.

Environment

Mississippi’s rice crop is harvested in the fall. The winter flooding of the harvested rice fields provides excellent feeding and resting habitats for waterfowl. In the Delta, flooded rice fields serve the essential needs of migratory birds following the Mississippi Flyway.