Vivian Spanihel is among many in the Texas rice industry who wonders what the next farm bill will finally provide for farmers caught between high costs of production and a price that doesn’t always offer a profit.

“Farmers are trying to make economic decisions not knowing what’s going on,” says Spanihel, manager of the American Rice Growers Association cooperative in Garwood. “They know they’ll probably not see direct payments in the new farm bill.”

While some growers have a massive market for their rice through major co-ops like Riceland, many Texas growers depend on smaller co-ops like ARGA to market their rice.

ARGA represents growers in Jackson, Lavaca, Wharton, Colorado and Austin counties. Growers harvest their lots in fields, then take the rice to driers. “I grade the rice to establish a loan value based on quality,” says Spanihel. “The lots are then put for sale for mills to look at and make bids.”

Two large mills, American Rice, Inc. and Gulf Rice Milling, both headquartered in Houston, are among those that bid for the rice. There’s also the Colorado County Rice Mill at Eagle Lake west of Houston.

A federal loan rate of $6.50 to $6.70 per hundredweight is far below a typical cost of production of $1,100 to $1,200 per acre, Spanihel says. So growers push for the highest premium they can receive from mills.

“The mills look for the ratio of whole grains to the total kernel,” Spanihel says. “We’re seeing some good quality from our rice this year.”