The rice belt is a vast region in the southern part of the United States with the highest rice production in the country. The area is famous for the large quantity of rice produced by the four member states. Rice production in the US is capital intensive, and all rice farms in the country have to be irrigated. Between 2000 and 2009, about 3.1 million acres of land in the country were under rice cultivation and it was estimated that the area would increase in the next decade to about 3.3 million acres. The four states that constitute the rice belt include Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Rice Belt States
Farming of rice in Texas can be traced back to 1685 when rice was first introduced to the country from Madagascar. Texas is the second largest state in the US regarding the geographical coverage as well as the population of the country. Over the years, it has been known to have a climate that supports the production of corn and rice. The state is bordered by all the other three states that make up the rice belt. Majority of the people who live in the region mainly take part in the farming of corn and rice. The state has a stable economy since it is the state that contributes the most significant portion of rice and corn which is consumed and exported out of the country. It is the largest state among the four states that form the rice belt in the southern part of the US. The leading rice-producing counties in the state include Matagorda, Wharton, and Colorado and generates approximately 60% rice crop output in Texas. Rice in Texas generates approximately $200 million to its economy.
Rice was introduced in Louisiana in the mid-19th century and quickly became a staple crop in the state. Better irrigation and harvesting machinery in the latter part of the decade resulted in high production and lower costs. Louisiana and Texas were responsible for the production of about 75% of the country's rice from 1890 to 1900. In 2017, 391,071 acres of land in Louisiana were used for rice production.
In 2012, the state of Arkansas was the leading state in the US in rice production producing about 7,340 pounds per acre, which was an 8% increase from the previous year. Rice is the leading export item in the state, and it is valued at about $2billion every year. The state of Arkansas produces about 49% of the country’s rice production, and the area under rice cultivation in 2012 was 1.3 million acres, which was an increase from 1.2 million acres in 2011.
Mississippi is one of the leading rice-producing states and in 2015, there were about 259 farms growing rice. As of 2017, rice was generating about $105 million to the economy of Mississippi. Commercial rice cultivation in the state began in 1948 and production has been largely restricted to Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, with few areas outside the region producing rice.
The Significance of Rice in the US
Rice plays a critical role in the country and in 2009, it was estimated that rice and its allied services like milling, farming, and other end-user sectors contributed $34 billion to the economy. Rice industry support about 128,000 jobs across the country and the value added to the GDP was about $18 billion. In 2011, the US produced 11 million tons of rice, which was 1.6% of the global rice produced. The rice grown in the rice belt is mainly the long rice and hybrid types.