Rice farmers in Southwest Louisiana are frustrated over a loss of crop to blackbirds and waterfowl. Steve Linscombe, Director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station, said he has seen this problem before, but this past year has been detrimental to farmers.
"The birds, they have caused a substantial amount of damage to the rice crop," said Linscombe.
Normally birds are found in areas of thick marsh, but the past few years birds have been attacking crops throughout the southwest parishes.
"It's been a cold spring. The waterfowl tend to hang around here longer. They haven't migrated north and it's caused a lot of damage," he explained.
Crowley farmer Alan Lawson said he lost ten percent or roughly 100 acres to ducks. Lawson explained that replanting crops is costly. "When you have a loss and you have to come back in and replant, you are looking at about $150 an acre to replant."
The bird deterrents include shotguns, propane guns and a repellent called AV-1011. The seed treatment gives off a bad taste to birds and is also harmless. The cost of using the repellent is $16 per acre, which in the long run is a better alternative to a damaged crop. The problem farmers face now, is the possibility that the repellent will not be available in the future.
"We had it on a temporary label, " Linscombe explained. "We were only able to use it on a small section of crops. We are trying to secure it on a larger basis for an extended period of time."
Officials with the LSU AgCenter Rice Research station are urging farmers to lobby to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in order to receive permanent approval for the repellent. If not, Lawson said the costs will eventually hurt the consumer.
"We do not have control over price or things like that. But as farmers, we do give a lot to the economy. We higher labor and buy equipment and put money back into the economy. Ask any merchant and they will be able to tell you when they are hurting," Lawson said.
Lawson and Linscombe agreed that AV-1011 is the best alternative and could help keep rice farmers in business.