Future rice industry leaders recently participated in an extensive leadership session meeting with government, regulatory and rice industry officials in Washington D.C. during the fourth and final session of the two year Rice Leadership Development Program.

Class members met with various U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies to get updates on domestic programs, international trade policy issues, as well as Senate and House Agriculture Committee briefings. The class also had an opportunity to meet with officials at the American Bankers Association to hear their perspective on the agriculture credit market. A reception held at the Cuban Interest Section for the Rice Leadership Class was a highlight of the session.

“Being in Washington at a time when discussions are ongoing for a new farm bill was a wonderful opportunity for the class to see government at work first hand, “said Chuck Wilson, director of Rice Foundation and manager of the Rice Leadership Program.

The class graduated during a special ceremony in conjunction with the USA Rice Federation’s Government Affairs Conference. Rice Foundation Chairman Dr. Ernest Girouard and USA Rice Federation Chairman Al Montna presented the graduation certificates and alumni pins to class members. Brian King, who served as class spokesperson, thanked John Deere Company and Syngenta for sponsoring the program and for the opportunity to broaden their leadership skills.

The Rice Leadership Development Program provides future leaders with a comprehensive understanding of the rice industry, with an emphasis on personal development and communications skills. During a two-year period, seven class members selected from rice producing states attend four one-week sessions designed to strengthen leadership skills through studies of all aspects of the rice industry.

Rice producer members of the class are Buck Leonards of Crowley, La.; Jeremy Baltz of Pocahontas, Ark.; Ross Hebert of Abbeville, La.; Clyde Simmons of Hollandale, Miss., and Henry Kalfsbeek of Sacramento, Calif. The industry-related member of the class is Brian King of Marked Tree, Ark.

The Rice Leadership Development Program is sponsored by John Deere Company and Syngenta through a grant to the Rice Foundation, and is administered by the USA Rice Federation.