The 2009 Rice Leadership Development Program class began its first session at the end of March with a weeklong, firsthand look at rice production and marketing programs in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana and Texas.
Class members included rice producers Tom Butler and Josh Sheppard of California, Brandon Bauman of Arkansas, John Earles of Louisiana and Kirk Satterfield of Mississippi and industry-related representative members Chad Duckworth and Kyle Stovesand of Arkansas.
The session began in Houston, where USA Rice Federation staff gave an overview of the rice industry, provided updates on domestic and international promotion efforts, and summarized the federation's organizational structure.
The class visited the largest domestic user of rice, Anheuser Busch, which purchases more than 9 percent of domestically produced rice.
Alumnus Michael Creed from Creed Rice, Inc., explained the role of international brokers and the various ways for shipping rice internationally. On day two, Riviana Foods, Inc., hosted a tour of its instant rice plant and explained consumer and industrial marketing techniques.
The class also received an update on U.S. Rice Producers Association activities.
The class then traveled to East Bernard, Texas, where they met with leadership program alumnus Terry Hlavinka and Ralph Novosad with Hlavinka Equipment Company to talk about Texas rice production.
The next stop was at the farming operation of Steve Balas, who also serves on the Lower Colorado River Authority, where the class learned how agriculture and urban growth work together to provide water for everyone.
Linda Raun explained how she and her husband L.G. Raun market organic and specialty rice from their farm in El Campo.
The class then met with Dick Ottis, executive vice president of Rice Belt Warehouse, Inc., the state's largest rice storage facility.
Class members also met with Jay Davis of Coastal Rice and Futures, who described the use of the sales offices in south Texas.
The day ended with a reception and dinner at Greek Brothers Restaurant.
On the last day in Texas, the class met with RiceTec, Inc., a new sponsor of the program, where they learned about hybrid rice production technology.
The class wrapped up its Texas tour with a stop in Beaumont, where leadership class alumnus Mike Doguet used his rice farm, rice mill, sod farm, cattle operation and crawfish farm to demonstrate the importance of diversification.
In Lake Charles, La., alumnus Philip Bertrand with Farmers Rice Milling Company explained Louisiana rice marketing provided a tour of the company's agrilectric power plant, which burns rice hulls to power the rice mill and sells the surplus electricity.
Alumni Christian Richard, Dane Hebert, Buck Leonards, Ross Hebert and Jeff Durand sponsored a crawfish boil for the class, during which Eddie Eskew discussed south Louisiana production practices and salt intrusion problems that still face producers as a result of previous hurricanes.
The next day the class toured Louisiana State University Rice Research Station in Crowley, La., where alumnus Steve Linscombe summarized the latest rice research. The class then visited John PAC in Crowley, La., to observe the production of the bags used to send U.S. rice around the world.
For the final day, the class visited Russell Marine Group, Metairie, La., where they learned about laboratory testing services and were given a tour of the mid-stream loading facility on the Mississippi River, where ocean-going barges and vessels are loaded for international shipment.
John Deere Company, Syngenta and RiceTec, Inc., are sponsors of the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation. The USA Rice Federation administers it.