5th Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: Geography: In what states is rice grown? What caused these states to begin growing rice?


Rice was brought to North America from ships travelling from Madagascar in 1685. North Carolina was the first to receive the rice. The production of rice in America was started in South Carolina and Georgia. It continued there for 200 years.

In the 1880's, rice production spread through the coastal prairies of southwestern Louisiana to southeast Texas. Today, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, California and Texas produce more than ninety percent of the rice consumed in the United States. These six states export rice to about one hundred countries.

Before 1880 Texas rice fields were being plowed by oxen. Growth was dependent on rainfall and rice was planted, harvested and threshed by hand. This crop was only grown to be eaten in towns and locations near the rice farms.

The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1883 brought many settlers to the Gulf Coast including many grain farmers from the Midwest. They brought with them combines and other forms of mechanized agricultural methods. Modern rice mills were also being built. All of these factors contributed in making rice a commercial crop in Texas. Pumps and modern irrigation systems were installed. The first commercial crop of rice from Texas was cultivated on a 200 acre farm near Beaumont, Texas in 1886. This was shipped to Louisiana for milling. The first rice mill was installed in Texas by Joseph E. Broussard in 1892.

In the early 1900's almost all U.S. rice came from Louisiana and Texas, while production in the original rice states of South Carolina and Georgia had almost stopped. In 1904 seed was imported from Japan. It was received as a gift from the Japanese Emperor. The yield produced from this seed was fourteen barrels per acre more than what had been produced previously. This new variety of rice was then used in many rice farms in Texas and Louisiana. By 1915, Louisiana and Arkansas took the lead in U.S. rice production with twelve million hundred weight of rice that year. From the Texas ports of Houston and Galveston, the U.S. shipped rice all over the world.

Rice farming in the U.S. suffered after World War I and during the Great Depression of the 1930's. The Agriculture Adjustment Act, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the New Deal balanced prices and production so that farmers could stay in business and produce needed food for the country and the world.

Since then, rice farms in the United States have become very large. U.S. rice farmers use modern technologies to produce rice valued throughout the world for its quality. United States rice farmers practice the most modern, efficient and environmentally safe farming methods in the world. In most other rice producing countries, rice farming is labor intensive and involves the whole family. While much of U.S. rice is eaten right here in the United States, U.S. rice production still depends upon sales to an international market. The United States exports about half of the rice it grows. It is predicted that the demand for rice from both the United States and other nations will increase.


Create a timeline demonstrating the development of rice as an important commercial crop in Texas.


18 counties make up the Texas Rice Belt. They follow the coast from the Sabine River and the Guadalupe River. They include Austin, Jackson, Orange and Whorton Counties. Bowie County in north east Texas also produces rice but the environment is more closely related to that of the rice-land in Arkansas.

Below is a map of the Texas Rice Belt. Do some research and draw a map of the rice growing region in Arkansas.

  • prairie
  • coastal
  • aquifer

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
Anatomy of Rice:
Rice is a seed of cereal (grass) plant used for food. Click here to learn more about the Anatomy of Rice.
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