LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- After many years of promoting Arkansas’ rice crop around the world, the state’s Rice Council is bringing its promotional efforts home.

The council recently began a billboard advertising campaign aimed at increasing rice consumption and rice awareness in Arkansas. Four new billboards are promoting rice to drivers on some of Arkansas’ busiest highways.

“In Arkansas we have the natural advantage of being at the crossroads of America,” said Robert Petter, Stuttgart, Ark., vice chairman of the Arkansas Rice Council. “We wanted to take advantage of that fact to promote our crop.”

Petter noted there are several benefits of advertising in Arkansas.

“The cost of media is less here than in many larger markets, so it’s a good value,” he noted. “Plus, we want consumers here in Arkansas to have more awareness of rice. We also hope to create pride in a home-grown product.”

Four billboards across eastern Arkansas carry the rice message. Two are located on the heavily-traveled Interstate 40 route between Little Rock and Memphis. One is on State Highway 49 near Marvell, Ark., and another on Highway 67 near Newport, Ark.

“The locations were selected on the basis of highway traffic counts, geographic diversity and cost,” said Petter. “For example, our billboard nearest Little Rock will reach about 37,000 drivers every day.”

Nutrition is the central theme of the new advertising effort. Smiling young consumers are seen ready to dig into big bowls of fluffy, long-grain rice.

“The message is wholesome and informative,” said Petter. “Rice is a healthy food that tastes good. That is essentially our message.”

The billboard campaign is slated to run through March 2005.