The 2009 Rice Leadership Development Program class began its first session March 30, with a weeklong, firsthand look at rice production and marketing programs in the Gulf Coast areas of Texas and Louisiana.
Rice producer members Tom Butler of Robbins and Josh Sheppard of Biggs received an overview of several aspects of the rice industry with two days in Texas and three days in Louisiana.
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, 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 class members met with leadership program alumnus Terry Hlavinka and Ralph Novosad with Hlavinka Equipment Co., 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. 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 VP of Rice Belt Warehouse, Inc., the state’s largest rice storage facility. They 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, Farmers Rice Milling Co., explained Louisiana rice marketing and toured 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.
On Thursday, the class toured Louisiana State University Rice Research Station in Crowley, La., where alumnus Dr. Steve Linscombe summarized the latest rice research. The group also visited John PAC in Crowley 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., and learned about its laboratory testing services. They also received a tour of the mid-stream loading facility on the Mississippi River, where ocean-going barges and vessels are loaded for international shipment.
In addition to Butler and Sheppard, rice producer members of the class are Brandon Bauman, from Stuttgart, Ark.; John Earles from Bunkie, La.; and Kirk Satterfield from Benoit, Miss. The industry-related members of the class are Chad Duckworth from Jonesboro, Ark., and Kyle Stovesand from Stuttgart, Ark.
John Deere Co., Syngenta and RiceTec, Inc. are sponsors of the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation, and the USA Rice Federation administers it.