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Dry Winter Weather Worries Rice Farmers

Brian Baer / California Rice Commission

Farm on Pleasant Grove Road, Pleasant Grove CA.

Brian Baer / California Rice Commission

California rice farmers are worried that if doesn't rain or snow soon they will have to fallow fields again this year. The rice crop was down nearly 25% in 2014. But, it's not just the drought that's hurting growers. Market competition from southern states like Louisiana and Arkansas is also increasing. 

Ryan Schohr is a sixth generation rice farmer in Butte County. Last year he fallowed more than half of his fields because of the drought. He worries about this year and next.

"The drought is certainly really impacting the decisions we make with the level of employees, the amount of equipment we'll be utilizing to help prepare the soil to plant our crops. All those things are very dynamic at this point," says Schohr.

The drought is only one dark market force. Tim Johnson is the president of the California Rice Commission. He says rice grown in other parts of the U.S. is penetrating the market and driving the price down. He stresses that the quality of southern rice is lower, but some markets are willing to sacrifice on flavor to save money.

"The world knows that the quality of the rice grown in California is very very high. But, for especially countries that import rice sometimes price is the predominating factor."

Johnson cites Turkey, Taiwan and Micronesia as examples of countries who are buying southern rice instead of calrose.