Future leaders of the rice industry from Mississippi took a firsthand look at rice marketing, research and production during the second session of the 2003 Rice Leadership Development Program.

Rice producers Ralph Allen of Ruleville and Curtis Berry of Robinsonville were part of a VIP class that received an overview of rice marketing, research and production in Arkansas.

The weeklong session began in Wynne, Ark., where the class observed production practices as well as precision land leveling at the farm of alumni member John Cooper.

The class also attended personal development workshops on media communications, business etiquette and public speaking. “Learning about public speaking and how to work with members of the press are important skills that I learned through this program,” said Allen.

Discussions on world rice marketing, updates on the U.S. rice industry, and a parboil rice mill tour were the order of business while at Riceland Foods Inc., and Producers Rice Mill. Dr. David Gealy, a research plant physiologist at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, and Dr. Chris Deren, director at the University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center, provided information on the latest advances in rice research in the Mid-South.

Deere manufacturing

The class then traveled to Moline, Ill., where they met with executives at John Deere and observed combine manufacturing at the Harvester Works. “After meeting with top Deere executives and seeing the importance they place on this leadership program, I came away with a tremendous respect for an organization that is committed to a successful and profitable rice industry,” said Berry.

The session wrapped up in Chicago at the Chicago Board of Trade where the class observed rice trading on the floor and learned how to use the board as a marketing tool.

The leadership class will meet next in September 2004 in California to examine rice issues in that state. The final session will be held in February 2005 in Washington, D.C.

In addition to Allen and Berry, rice producer members of the class are Dow Brantley of Lonoke, Ark.; Fred Zaunbrecher of Duson, La.; and Bill McNeil of England, Ark. In the industry-related category, class members are Chris Crutchfield of Sacramento, Calif., and Brad Koen of DeWitt, Ark.

John Deere Co. and Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. sponsor the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation. The program is administered by the USA Rice Federation.