The Rice Leadership Development Program class received an overview of rice marketing, production practices, specialty product development, clean water and air issues and observed the rice harvest in California, Sept. 22-28.

The California Rice Commission kicked-off the week-long session with a half-day seminar on the challenges and opportunities facing the California rice industry. The seminar featured Dar Mims, meteorologist for the California Air Resources Board, as the guest speaker.

Throughout the week, participants in the Leadership Development Program class reviewed marketing activities, value-added product development and milling practices at Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, American Commodity Company, PGP International, Lundberg Family Farms and SunWest Foods.

John Ford, director of the Feather River Fish Hatchery, detailed California’s work to keep salmon plentiful and off the endangered species list. The class traveled to the Cordua Irrigation District, where farmer Charley Mathews, Sr., showed them a fish screen project that protects young Chinook juvenile salmon and provides the needed water for rice growers in the water district. They also learned how agriculture and nature can work together for a better environment.

Michael Rue, Chairman of the USA Rice Federation Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee, provided an update on trade issues that impact California rice sales. At LaGrand Ranches, farmers Leo and Sid LaGrand provided an overview of production practices, water and land costs, as well as marketing issues. The class also observed harvest on the ranch.

The leadership class will meet for its fourth and final session in Washington, D.C., Feb. 11-15, 2008. A special graduation ceremony will be held at the completion of the class.

Rice producer members are Bryan Leonards of Crowley, LA; Jeremy Baltz of Pocahontas, AR; Ross Hebert of Abbeville, LA; Bubba Simmons of Hollandale, MS. and Henry Kalfsbeek of Sacramento, CA. The industry-related member is Brian King of Marked Tree, AR.

John Deere Co. and Syngenta America sponsor the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to the Rice Foundation, and the USA Rice Federation administers it.