Members of the 2001 Rice Leadership Class recently participated in extensive meetings with government, regulatory and rice industry officials in Washington during the fourth and final session of the Rice Leadership Development Program.

During the weeklong session, the class had meetings with various USDA agencies to get updates on international trade policy and U.S. domestic programs. The group also received regulatory and environmental updates from the Environmental Protection Agency. A highlight of the trip was a reception held at the Cuban Interest Section.

A special graduation ceremony was held for the class in conjunction with the USA Rice Federation's Government Affairs Conference. Rice Foundation Chairman David E. Van Oss and USA Rice Federation Chairman Gary Sebree, a rice producer from Stuttgart, Ark., presented the graduation certificates.

Paul T. Combs, who served as class spokesman, thanked John Deere Company and Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. for sponsoring the program and for the opportunity to broaden their leadership skills.

Other graduates included rice producers Monty Bohanan of Stuttgart, Ark.; Danny Gertson of East Bernard, Texas; Dane Hebert of Maurice, La.; Kyle Sonnier of Jennings, La.; and Bert Manuel of Yuba City, Calif.

In the industry-related category, the class members were Vicky Boyd of Modesto, Calif., and Combs of Kennett, Mo.

John Deere Company and Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc sponsor the Rice Leadership Development Program through the Rice Foundation. The USA Rice Federation administers it.