Rice producer Jessica Lundberg of Richvale was part of the Leadership Development class that received an overview of rice marketing, production practices, specialty product development, clean water and air issues, and observed the rice harvest in California.

The California Rice Commission staff opened the weeklong 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, and Joe Karkowski, manager, Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, as the guest speakers.

The Leadership Development Program participants reviewed marketing activities, value-added product development and milling practices at Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, American Commodity Co., 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. Class members traveled to the Glenn Colusa Irrigation District, where they saw a fish screen project that protects young Chinook juvenile salmon and provides the needed water for the district’s rice growers. The class also learned how agriculture and nature can work together for a better environment.

USA Rice Federation immediate past Chairman Al Montna, and Asia, Turkey Promotion Subcommittee Chairman Chris Crutchfield, spoke to the class about conservation practices and marketing California medium-grain rice around the world.

At LaGrande Ranches, Leo, Sid and Brett LaGrande provided an overview of production practices, water and land costs, as well as marketing issues. The class also observed harvest on the ranch. Dr. Kent McKenzie, director of the California Rice Research Station in Biggs, gave an update on California’s research efforts. Then it was off to the Mathews Ranch where Charley Mathews, Sr. and Charley Mathews, Jr. hosted a dinner in honor of the class.

The class ended its California program by observing the California water systems from Oroville Dam to Lake Shasta to the Salinas Valley. Western Regional Ducks Unlimited was the final stop, where the Ducks Unlimited staff provided an overview of their conservation and waterfowl projects.

The leadership class will meet for its fourth and final session in Washington, D.C., Feb. 9-13. A special graduation ceremony will be held at the completion of the class.

In addition to Lundberg, rice-producer members are Trent Dabbs of Stuttgart, Ark.; Eric Leonard of Corning, Ark.; Dr. John F. Denison of Lake Charles, La., and Eric Unkel of Kinder, La. Industry-related members are Dr. Jennifer Wells of Collierville, Tenn., and Shelley Smith of Batesville, Miss.

The USA Rice Federation is the global advocate for all segments of the U.S. rice industry with a mission to promote and protect the interests of producers, millers, merchants and allied businesses.