The 2011 Rice Leadership Development Program class began its first session, held March 28 through April 1, with a week-long look at rice production and marketing programs in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana and Texas.
Class members include rice producers Marc Breckenridge from Durham, Calif.; Galen Franz from Victoria, Texas; Scott Gairhan from Jonesboro, Ark.; Mark Pousson from Welsh, La.; and Paul Zaunbrecher from Rayne, La. Industry-related representatives are Park Eldridge with Lehman Elevator from Gillett, Ark., and Brendan O’Donnell with Sun Valley Rice Company from Arbuckle, Calif.
The group met with USA Rice Federation staff in Houston for an overview of the rice industry, updates on domestic and international promotion efforts, and information about USA Rice’s organizational structure. The class also visited the largest domestic user of rice, Anheuser Busch, which purchases more than 9 percent of domestically produced rice, and alumnus Michael Creed from Creed Rice, Inc., who explained the role of international brokers.
Riviana Foods Inc. explained consumer and industrial marketing techniques, while alumni Terry Hlavinka and Linda Raun spoke about Texas rice production. The class also met with Dick Ottis, executive vice president of Rice Belt Warehouse, Inc., the state’s largest rice storage facility before going to RiceTec, Inc., where hybrid rice production technology was discussed.
In Lake Charles, La., the class met with Farmers Rice Milling Company and alumnus Philip Bertrand, who explained Louisiana rice marketing. The group toured the company’s Agrilectric Power Plant, which burns rice hulls to power the rice mill and sells the surplus electricity. Class members also toured the Louisiana State University Rice Research Station in Crowley, La., where alumnus Dr. Steve Linscombe summarized the latest rice research.
The session concluded with a visit to Russell Marine Group in Metairie, La., to learn about river logistics as well as Eurofin’s laboratory testing services. The class also received a tour of a mid-stream loading facility on the Mississippi River, where they observed a ship bound for Mexico being loaded with rice.
John Deere Company, RiceTec, Inc. and American Commodity Company are sponsors of the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation, and the USA Rice Federation administers it.