Ray Stoesser, Dayton, Texas, rice farmer, says good yields and hybrid rice are keeping him in business, especially with current market prices that perplex him.

Stoesser talked about rice prospects during the recent field day at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont.

“We started growing hybrid rice about seven or eight years ago,” Stoesser said. “It’s made a big difference. Our ten year average before was about 6,000 pounds per acre. Now we’re averaging 8,000 to 9,000.”

He said the 2010 crop looks good after a shaky start. “We had a hard spring. It was dry between flushes and it was hard to get a good stand with high winds and little rain. We have enough water now (after Hurricane Alex and another tropical depression inundated South Texas) to make the crop.”

But he’s concerned about the price, well below the $17 a bushel available last year. “We over-produced,” he said. “But we have a good market and I don’t understand why prices are not better. We know how to grow rice; it’s just hard to sell it.”

He thinks U.S. consumers would pay more for rice. “It’s the best deal in the grocery store. Our problem is that we need to educate people.”

He said domestic markets should be more important. “Exports dictate price.”

Stoesser is president of the Texas Rice Council and vice president of U.S. Rice Producers. He said if Congress passes legislation to ease trade and travel restrictions with Cuba, Texas rice will benefit. “I’ll be calling my congressman to ask for his support,” Stoesser said. “Like most Republicans he’s for trade but against the travel. It’s time to get over it.”

Stoesser’s son Grant, 24, farms on his own and with his dad and older brother Neal. He’s following his heart. “At 17 it was apparent that the Lord wanted me to be a farmer,” he said. “I’ve been farming on my own since I was 17.”

He recently graduated from Texas A&M and got married a few months later.

In addition to rice, the Stoessers planted 500 acres of corn. “We don’t have soybeans this year,” Stoesser said. “We usually do. And the corn looks terrible. We had no rain early on.”

email: rsmith@farmpress.com