Richard E. “Dick” Bell, under whose leadership the Stuttgart, Ark.-based Riceland Foods Inc. became an international powerhouse in processing and marketing of rice, has announced his retirement at the end of July.

He will be succeeded by K. Daniel Kennedy, now serving as Riceland's executive vice president and chief operating officer.

For the past 23 years of his 27 years of service, Bell has been the 9,000-member cooperative's president and chief executive officer.

During his tenure, Riceland became the world's largest processor and marketer of rice and Arkansas became the nation's largest rice-producing state, accounting for nearly one-half of U.S. rice production.

Riceland is also a major marketer of soybeans, soybean products, and other grains produced in the Mid-South.

“Dick Bell has guided Riceland through a period of tremendous growth,” says Tommy Hoskyn, Stuttgart farmer and chairman of Riceland's board of directors. “Since he joined us in 1977, the volume of rice we handle for our farmer members on an annual basis has doubled. His attention to business management and policy development have been a good combination, not only for Riceland but for the entire rice industry.

“If you grow rice anywhere in the United States, you have benefited from Dick Bell's experience and understanding of how policy is developed in Washington, D.C. We appreciate the work he has done on behalf of our members, as well as the entire rice industry.”

Before joining Riceland, Bell served as assistant secretary of agriculture for international affairs and commodity programs. He also had served as president of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corporation and as chairman of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.

Bell's knowledge of commodity marketing, agricultural policy, and international affairs has made him much in demand as a speaker, and his crop outlooks have been a tradition at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show at Memphis.

His early career was as a foreign service officer at American embassies in Ottawa, Canada; Brussels, Belgium; and Dublin, Ireland.

A native of Illinois, he holds degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois.

Bell will continue to be available to Riceland in an advisory capacity on strategic issues, particularly those related to farm legislation, international trade, and agricultural-related research.

He also expects to continue a number of outside activities, including service on the boards of Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Foundation Fund, the Stuttgart Regional Medical Center, Easter Seals Arkansas, Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie, and as chairman of the Grand Prairie Early Childhood Development Council.

Bell's successor, K. Daniel Kennedy, joined Riceland in August 2000, after 16 years with Monsanto Company, where he held positions in domestic and international marketing/strategic planning.

A Louisiana native, he holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from Mississippi State University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University.

“In the four years Danny Kennedy has been at Riceland, he has brought a different dimension to the company as a result of his work at Monsanto,” Hoskyn says. “With his extensive experience and the management team in place at Riceland, the board of directors believes we're well-positioned to meet the grain marketing needs of our members.”

During the 2003-04 fiscal year ending July 31, Riceland expects annual sales and revenues to hit a record $951.1 million, up 9 percent from the previous year. It will also set records for earnings and payments to its farmer members and will have record total assets and member equity at year's end.