Judging from the presentations at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in December, rice acres in the Mid-South will again be down.
Last year marked the fourth consecutive year of serious economic, production and marketing challenges for rice worldwide.
In 2011, an historic flooding of the Mississippi River led to delays in planting and reduced acreage.
Arkansas, the nation's leading rice-growing state, is often the barometer for movements in rice acres
Arkansas fell below a million acres for the first time since 1996 when the state's producers planted some 910,000 acres, says Bobby Coats, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Extension economist.
Arkansas' 2011 acreage was some 35% off from the previous year.
More than 300,000 acres were not planted due to rain delays or historic flooding, Coats says.
Higher prices for corn and soybeans is again expected to hurt rice acres in most Mid-South states.
In Mississippi, rice producers saw a drastic drop in 2011 acres. Acreage fell to 153,000 due to lower rice yields in 2010, low prices and high corn and soybean returns.
Nathan Buehring, Mississippi State Extension rice specialist, expects the acres to continue to drop in 2010. "Soybeans and corn still show good profits," Buehring says.
In Louisiana, rice areage dropped to 412,370, some 44,000 acres below 2009 levels, says Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist.
Cotton acres picked up the decline in rice acres in northeast Louisiana.
Major issues in 2011 in Louisiana were the discovery of the Mexican rice borer, milling quality, salinity, too much water, heat and fungicide failures.
Saichuck foresees a decrease in rice acres for the southwestern area of the salinity problems barring significant rainfall. Depending on other crops, rice acres could come back in the northeastern part of the state.
Missouri took the direct hit of the flood on May 2, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew the levee at Birds Point.
Flooding of 130,000 acres pushed back planting into June and beyond, says Donn Beighley, Southeast Missouri State University plant breeder and Extension specialist.
"Better late than never," he says.
Some 75% of the rice planted in Missouri hit the ground through water seeding between May 15 and June 3.
Around 115,000 finally got planted in Missouri, Beighley says.
He expects rice acres in Missouri to go up to 175,000 in 2012,w ith more interest in rice monoculture and fewer Clearfield and hybrid acres.