California Rice Grower Demystifies Rice Industry

California Rice Grower Feeds Minds Also


By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director


By now, growers have harvested much of northern California’s rice. Most of it is already in the rice mill. While prices were low this year, production has been very good, according to Matthew Sligar, a third-generation rice grower in Gridley, up in Butte County.

California Rice Grower
Matthew Sligar, “How Rice is Harvested.”

“Yes, we just got done with rice harvest. We are chopping the rice straw that is left in the fields. We’re disking it in to aid in decomposition,” Sligar said.

“Then we flood the fields with about 4 to 6 inches of water, creating a natural habitat for migratory birds. We just let the field sit over the winter so the straw decomposes. We work it back up in the spring.”

Northern California rice growers dedicate the winter months, and even the early season months when fields are first flooded, to help migratory birds whose original habitat has been taken over by cities and expanding neighborhoods.

Birds by the millions – including ducks, geese and shorebirds – rest, feed and rear their young in rice fields during their annual migrations. “Our fields turn white like snow from the down floating feathers left behind by birds,” Sligar said.

Matthew Sligar, California Rice Grower and Blogger
Matthew Sligar, California Rice Grower and Blogger

And yet, due to global oversupply, rice prices are trending lower this season. “We had to put our rice into a marketing pool because we wanted to guarantee a home for it,” Sligar said. “We did not want to gamble on the cash market. We haven’t seen the returns yet; however, I got a great yield, and I hear most of Northern California got extremely good yields.”

“Hopefully, that will make up for some of the low price, and we might make some money. When you get a good year, you’ve got to save that money for bad years like this year, just make it through to next year,” Sligar said.

Besides farming rice, Sligar is a cyclist and a social media blogger. He produces great videos on all segments of the rice industry.

“That’s one reason why I started Rice Farming TV because whenever I’d be at a restaurant or some spot socializing, someone will say, ‘What do you do?’ I tell them that I farm rice. ‘Rice? Where do you live?’ I say, ‘I live in California.’ They don’t know that rice is grown in California, but it’s the best,” Sligar said.


Click below to view Sligar’s video, “How Rice is Harvested!”

Also, in Sligar’s repertoire is the best way to surprise someone you love in the middle of a busy rice season, in The Mile High Surprise!

 View more videos at

Boost in Butte County Rice Production

Butte County Rice Growers and Communities Are Optimistic

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

Butte County rice growers are all smiles this year as regional filled-to-capacity water allotments have progressed crop production in a very timely manner. Randall Mutters, the county director of the University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension in Butte County, specializes in rice production.

Randall Mutters
Randall Mutters, county director of the UC Cooperative Extension in Butte County (Source: UCCE Butte County)

Butte County, known as the “land of natural wealth and beauty,” hosts the second largest acreage of rice in California and a population of over 220,000 residents as of 2012. Rice production is imperative for supporting local growers and surrounding communities. Mutters reiterated, “When the agricultural base is doing well, the community as a whole prospers.”

As growers continue to cultivate their rice, businesses and communities in the area are incredibly optimistic. Mutters explained, “I fully expect to have close to 500,000 acres of rice planted this year,” a remarkable number compared to last year’s 425,000 planted acres.

Mutters said, “It’s been relatively warm and dry, with just a few sprinkles here and there, but not enough to really slow down operations. The season is progressing very timely.” Also encouraging to Mutters, is pests that are typically an early season problem, have not been troublesome this year.

The UC Cooperative Extension in Butte County monitors and protects the agricultural industry by offering educational resources to promote technology and other strategies for farmers. Though the price of rice is not very strong, the community as a whole is enjoying their success.

Grower-PCA Communication is Critical

Grower-PCA Communication is Critical

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Emily Symmes, UC Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management Advisor, Butte County, is amazed at the professionalism of growers and Pest Control Advisors (PCAs). “I deal directly with growers and land managers, as well as crop advisors and pest control consultants” said Symmes, “and everyone has so much to do out there, so grower-PCA communication is critical. Sometimes it is amazing how they get it all done. I feel lucky, as I get to focus on the pest management and other production activities throughout the season,” she noted.

Symmes maintains there has to be a lot of communication back and forth between the growers and PCAs and herself. “And within each question there is a deeper conversation,” she elaborated, “but it can get lost in the shuffle of running from one thing to the next. Everything is very time sensitive in agriculture; we don’t have control over weather and things that tend to drive pest population cycles.”

“So within each of those key pest management questions, there is a subset of questions:

  • How do we know that it is time?
  • Are we doing the right thing at the right time?
  • Are we using the right materials?
  • Are we considering the big picture?’”

“The other big key ingredient is follow-up—evaluating:

  • How did we do?
  • Did the treatment work?
  • Did it cause any potentially negative impacts that we weren’t aware of?
  • Did we have to come back and do something additional (after-the-fact)?
  • More questions about the treatment, time, and material.”

    PCA Responsibilities (CA DPR)
    PCA Responsibilities (CA DPR)

And on any California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recommendation, there is a question before the last signature line, ‘Have you thought of any other alternatives before you make this application?’ IPM practitioners sometimes misunderstand this to mean, ‘Well they don’t want us to treat.’ But it is really an acknowledgement that we know how important all of our management tactics are,” Symmes noted.

“Cultural practices are important, pesticides are important, but knowledge is really the key ingredient. Growers and PCAs are knowledgeable, have explored the alternatives and know what is going on in this particular orchard block they are signing this legal document for. Honestly, I think we do a great job.”

“I think California has done a fantastic job with this,” said Symmes,”but is there room for improvement? I think there always is.”