Date of this Version
In cooperation with the Louisiana Rice Research Board, the Louisiana State University Rice Research Station and the USA Rice Federation, we conducted a questionnaire survey in 2002 to estimate the economic impacts of blackbirds on the rice industry in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, California, and Missouri. Survey areas in rice producing states were identified based on the 2001 National Agricultural Statistic Service’s rice harvest records. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices in each state provided a mailing list of farm operators growing rice and approximately one third of the rice farm operators were randomly selected to be surveyed. The questionnaire was mailed to 6,191 rice farm operators in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, California, and Missouri during May and June, 2002. The overall response rate was 16%, 969 questionnaires returned. These respondents represented 440,695 acres of rice planted in 2001. Overall, 62% of the respondents that farmed rice in 2001 reported damage from blackbirds. Those respondents reported bird damage to 58,135 acres of newly planted rice and 95,208 acres of ripening rice or a total production loss of 33,623,500 lbs of rice, which at 2001 prices is equivalent to $1,916,539. In addition, 56% of the respondents to the question on bird damage prior to 2001 reported damage as far back as 1996. For all states, between 1996-2000 the average percent annual blackbird damage to newly planted rice ranged from 6% to 15%, and the average percent annual blackbird damage to ripening rice ranged from 6% to 14%. Louisiana and Arkansas respondents reported the highest damage, respectively. Rice operators that responded to questions regarding bird control spent between $316,578 and $460,000 to prevent bird damage to their rice. About 6% of the respondents spent over $4,000 each on hazing birds from their rice crop. Shooting and propane cannons were the most widely used methods for bird control. When production losses due to birds are projected for each surveyed state, results suggest that blackbirds directly caused about $13.4 million in rice damage in 2001. Arkansas and Louisiana had the greatest losses at $4.8 and $3.9 million, respectively, which represents over 60% of the total damage. Also, it was projected that approximately $3.2 million was spent on prevention of blackbird damage to rice and approximately $4.9 million was lost in government price supports. Our study estimated that minimal economic loss to the rice industry in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, California and Missouri from blackbirds in 2001 due to direct damage, prevention and lost price support was $21.5 million.