Mild weather aids California rice harvest

Rice is harvested in a field in Sutter County, Calif., on a recent afternoon. The rice harvest in California is about halfway finished.

MARYSVILLE, Calif. — Except for a brief pause because of rain, the rice harvest in California’s Sacramento Valley has continued apace.

Farmers throughout the state are roughly halfway finished with bringing in their crop, said Charley Mathews, a grower here and chairman of the California Rice Commission.

“I’m just happy to have nice weather” for the remainder of the season, Mathews said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been this good.”

Growers had to stop their harvesters from rolling for a couple of days after Sept. 21, when a weather system brought more than an inch of rain to some areas in Northern California.

In Williams, Calif., farmer Jim LaGrande encountered some hail that knocked rice off some of the heads, he said.

“It was a fairly small amount,” LaGrande said. “It was spotty, depending on where the hail hit. Where it hit it did do some damage, no question about that.”

The rain came amid generally favorable weather conditions for rice that have persisted since the spring, when growers were able to plant at a pace that they knew would facilitate a smooth harvest.

The mild summer helped rice grow and also benefited the milling quality of the rice, the California Farm Bureau Federation explained. This year’s rice crop in California is expected to be 46.1 million hundredweight, up 2 percent from last year, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

For growers, the clear skies and mild temperatures that are expected this month are a welcome change from recent years, when a late start at planting caused the harvest to extend into the rainy season. Last fall, growers were frustrated by lingering moisture in the crop.

Willows, Calif., farmer Larry Maben was about one-third of the way done as of the start of October, he said. His yields have been about average and the quality has been mostly decent, he said.

“I’ve got one neighbor who complained about one variety that fell flat on its face,” Maben said. “That will be the last variety I cut, so I hope it was just a spot failure and not a general indication.”


California Rice Commission:

Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter

Recommended for you