Future leaders of the rice industry from California 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 Program.

Rice producer Mark Lavy of Biggs and Rob Paschoal of Woodland were part of a VIP class that met with various USDA agencies to get updates on international trade policy issues, domestic programs, Senate and House agriculture committees briefings, as well as regulatory and environmental updates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The class also had meetings on agricultural economics at the American Bankers Association, and federal budget issues were discussed at the National Economic Council, the economic staff for President Bush. A reception held at the Cuban Interest Section for the Rice Leadership Class was a highlight of the session.

“I am amazed how this program was able to open doors to governmental and regulatory agencies that meet one on one with our class to talk about important issues affecting the U.S. rice industry,” said Lavy.

The class graduated during a special ceremony in conjunction with the USA Rice Federation's Government Affairs Conference, also held in Washington.

Rice Foundation Chairman David Van Oss and USA Rice Federation Chairman Gary Sebree presented the graduation certificates and alumni pens to class members. Jerry Boettcher, who severed as class spokesperson, thanked John Deere Co. and Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. for sponsoring the program and for the opportunity to broaden their leadership skills.

Paschoal said, “This program provides the opportunity of a lifetime to learn and develop leadership skills and to open our eyes to the big picture of the U.S. rice industry. As knowledgeable and well-trained leaders, we are now eager and willing to give back something to the rice industry.”

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 designedto strengthen leadership skills through studies of all aspects of the industry.

In addition to Lavy, rice producer members of the class are Kyle Baltz of Pocahontas, Ark.; Jerry Boettcher of East Bernard, Texas; Barrett Franz of Bay City, Texas; and Joe Tupper of Elton, La. In the industry-related category are Paschoal and Traci Garrett Harvey of Danbury, Texas.

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