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Sugarcane leader & two others honored

Jackie Theriot

Jackie Theriot, a St. Martin Parish native, is one of three agricultural leaders to be inducted into the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction. The induction will take place at the L’Auberge Hotel in Baton Rouge March 2.

Theriot, born in Catahoula and the son of a sugarcane farmer, spent his formative years planting, cultivating and harvesting sugarcane on the family farm. Much of this work was done with very little mechanized equipment.

Theriot graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1962 with an agronomy degree. Upon graduation, he was selected for the first class of the Peace Corps, a new initiative started by President John F. Kennedy to help developing countries. For two years in Togo, West Africa, he taught how to breed tilapia, produce grain crops and cultivate sugarcane.

In 1968, Theriot returned home to raise sugarcane. Fifteen years later, he became the general manager of the Breaux Bridge Sugar Cooperative. In 1985, he became a member of the American Sugar Cane League Board of Directors as a processor member.

Theriot was on the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors for 23 years and served 19 years on the executive committee as secretary-treasurer. Theriot spent countless hours being an advocate for the Louisiana sugar industry and helped expand production in the state.

Also inducted into the Hall are rice and crawfish farmer Gerard Frey, of Iota and Steve Linscombe, longtime LSU AgCenter rice breeder and current director of the USA Rice Federation Leadership Development Program, who currently resides in Mountain Home, Texas.

A joint effort of the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Radio Network, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction honors individuals who have made significant contributions to agriculture or agriculture-related industries. Previous inductees have represented farming, ranching, forestry, aquaculture, education and agribusiness.

Frey started his farming career as a first grader. He would return home from school and hop on a tractor to help his father raise rice. His first rice crop on his own was during his senior year in high school, and he has been raising rice ever since for 44 consecutive years.

Like many rice farmers in the area, Frey also raises crawfish. Frey’s wife, Dana, convinced him to build a crawfish processing facility because they had access to a fresh-caught product. She is now responsible for running the entire crawfish operation, which also processes alligator throughout the year.

While fighting Mother Nature and fickle markets are a challenge for farmers, Frey has faced bigger challenges dealing with health issues. Twenty years ago, he lost both of his kidneys and got a transplant from his sister. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy. Frey said his staff and wife kept the operation running smoothly during his recuperations.

Linscombe served nearly 30 years as the rice breeder at the H. Rouse Caffery Rice Research Station in Crowley. During his tenure, 33 new rice varieties were released. The average rice yield went from 4,500 pounds per acre in 1988 to 7,200 pounds per acre in 2017. Not only were the yields up for these new varieties, but their resistance to insects and diseases also greatly improved.

One of the most significant advancements came with the development of the Clearfield varieties. The rice industry now had a new way to attack red rice, a weed that is a very close relative to commercial rice. It revolutionized how rice producers could now cultivate and grow their crops.

Linscombe also has made significant contributions on the academia side as well. As a principal investigator, he received more than $20 million in grant funds to research rice issues. He authored more than 350 publications, with 81 of them being peer-reviewed publications.

Upon retirement from the AgCenter in 2017, he moved to Texas and became heavily involved with The Rice Foundation, which is the education arm of the U.S. rice industry. He continues to work on sustainability issues and with rice breeders across the globe to improve rice quality.

Theriot was born in Catahoula in St. Martin Parish, the son of a sugarcane farmer. He spent his formative years planting, cultivating and harvesting sugarcane on the family farm. Much of this work was done with very little mechanized equipment.

For more information regarding the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction event, contact Robyn Dow with the Louisiana Radio Network at 225-291-2727 or

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