The 2010 Rice Leadership Development Program class began its first session, held April 11-16, with a weeklong look at rice production and marketing programs in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana and Texas.

Class members included rice-producers Alex Clark from Poplar Bluff, MO; Nicole Montna Van Vleck from Yuba City, CA; Matthew Feilke from Stuttgart, AR; Jim Whitaker from McGehee, AR; and Shannon Harrington from Iowa, LA. Industry-related representative members are Andy Morris with Uncle Ben’s from Franklin, TN, and Dan Squires with Pacific International Rice Mills from Yuba City, CA.

The class received an overview of the rice industry, updates on domestic and international promotion efforts, and information about the USA Rice Federation organizational structure from Director, Field Services Chuck Wilson. Class members also visited Anheuser-Busch, the largest domestic user of U.S.-grown rice, purchasing more than 9 percent of the annual production. The group also met with Leadership Class alumnus Michael Creed from Creed Rice, Inc., who explained the role of international brokers.

Riviana Foods Inc. hosted a tour of its instant rice plant and explained consumer and industrial marketing techniques, while alumnus Terry Hlavinka 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 a visit to RiceTec, Inc., where hybrid rice production technology was discussed.

In Lake Charles, LA, the class met with USA Rice Chairman Jamie Warshaw, president and CEO of 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. The next stop was Louisiana State University Rice Research Station in Crowley, LA, where alumnus Dr. Steve Linscombe summarized the latest rice research.

The week ended with a visit to Russell Marine Group in Metairie, LA, for an overview of its laboratory testing services. The class 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.

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 the program.