Joe Aguzzi honored for rice farming
by Courtney Warren
Dec 06, 2013 | 2318 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Since 1954 rice farming has been a way of life for Joe Aguzzi and recently he was named Rice Farmer of the Year at this year’s USA Rice Outlook Conference in St. Louis.

The award, sponsored by Horizon Ag, Rice Farming magazine and the USA Rice Federation, honors a producer who has shown determination, innovation or dedication to growing rice.

USA Rice will publish a story about Aguzzi in today’s USA Rice Daily.

Aguzzi remembers the difficulties of beginning the rice farm as well as how he was able to become successful.

"My brother and I are two World War II wounded veterans and we farmed with my daddy, Ned Aguzzi, for a few years until he retired. I had a combine that on it said 'rice special.' I thrashed rice for three years before I started growing for myself. That got me interested in planting something besides cotton," he said.

Aguzzi explained that he is considered an old grower because of the land he accumulated.

"I'm considered an 'old grower' because after 1954 the allotment was frozen and you couldn’t plant rice until in the ’70s. The only way you could plant more rice was to buy a rice farm that had a history and so I did that a few times which gave me a larger allotment.

"Some of the first growers ended up going broke because of the grass. We didn’t have chemicals at the time to control grass and so even though you planted a crop, the millet would choke it out and you'd just make a failure.

"If you bought a farm with allotment on it, you couldn’t move that allotment the first year you had it. You had to keep it on your farm until the next year and so the wise thing to do was not plant rice that first year so you'd have new land to put it on the second year.

"I did that — I bought new land for seven years, which kept me in the rice business and in 1957 a chemical called Stam came out which controlled the grass," he said.

Aguzzi said that because of this chemical more rice famers were able to emerge and become successful.

"It was really a miracle chemical because sooner or later you were going to be forced out of farming rice and so from then on they kept coming up with different chemicals to help control grass and so the rice farmers did pretty well from then on.

"Bankers used to not loan you money on a rice farm. They would loan you on cotton but the rice money was really what was paying your bills. In the ’70s the allotment was taken off and new growers could plant rice and so a lot of people went into rice," he added.

As the farm grew Aguzzi was glad to see that his children had an interest in farming and was able to keep the farm in the family.

"The children came along and got their education. Afterwards we asked if they wanted to farm and they did so they started buying land and we helped them get started. The land really belongs to them now. I'm still involved. I think they kind of like having me around but they can do it without me," he said.

Aguzzi was nominated for the award by several of his peers and said he is honored to be given the award.

Due to inclement weather, Aguzzi's grandson Michael had to accept the award in St. Louis on his behalf.

"A few had written in and presented my name. It's an honor to be accepted as rice farmer of the year. It’s not just a state award it's from the US Rice Federation.

“I feel honored to be presented this award.

"I know there are a lot of people out there that are deserving and I feel like I am one of the oldest rice farmers that's still involved and I guess they picked me because I think we've done pretty good job in the farm business.

"We've all done well and all the children have a college education and all of that came from this farm," he said.

Aguzzi is proud of the farm and seems hopeful and excited for the future, especially since the farm is to stay in the family.

"I'm real proud that the whole farm operation turned into what it is now. Being that the children and grandchildren are in the business there's room for them to all make a living. Everybody gets along real good and if it's not broken there's no use trying to fix it."