May rainstorm interrupts rice planting

Many farmers are left with acres of rice fields still too wet to plant on time.

Posted: May 20, 2019 3:33 PM
Updated: May 20, 2019 4:58 PM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - "You can see how wet it is - there's just no way you're going to get in there with a tractor anytime soon. This is what's causing all the problems right now in the rice world" said Andrew Sohnrey.

Rice farmers are in a crunch. The wet winter forced planting to start late this year.

The seeds need to be in the soil before June if farmers want crop insurance.

But if they want a crop - they say it's already too late to plant.

"We're in a lot better position than a lot of farmers in the area, we were working about 24 hours a day to get as much done as we could," Sohnrey said. 

Sohnrey said his family is lucky. They got most of their 3,000 acres planted before the storms hit.

"A lot of rice farmers are maybe 50% done with their groundwork. With this rain, it's just going to be nearly impossible for the farm to get the ground worked up before June 1st," Sohnrey said. 

Rice farmers made about $146 million in 2017.

The Butte County Farm Bureau said that means 2-4 times as much goes into our local economy through jobs and distribution.

So, a 50% loss would have major impacts.

"It could be a week, week and a half before you can even think about getting back out here. You still have to get fertilizer on, flood it, seed it, it's going to be a lot of farmers pushing really hard to get stuff done," Sohnrey said. 

While many farmers may have to pay that higher insurance premium and plant after June 1st, the Sohnrey family says they may just let their 150 unplanted acres sit this year out.

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