Rice Leadership Development Program class members began their first session in March with a week-long, firsthand look at rice production and marketing programs in Louisiana and Texas.

Class members include rice producers Trent Dabbs and Eric Leonard of Arkansas, Jessica Lundberg of California, and John Fred Denison and Eric Unkel of Louisiana, and industry representatives Jennifer Wells of Tennessee and Shelley Smith of Mississippi.

The session began in Houston, where USA Rice Federation staff gave an overview of the rice industry, provided updates on domestic and international promotion efforts, and summarized the federation’s organizational structure.

Michael Creed from Creed Rice, Inc., explained the role of international brokers and methods for shipping rice internationally. Riviana Foods, Inc., hosted a tour of its instant rice plant later in the day and explained consumer and industrial marketing techniques.

While in Houston, the class visited the largest domestic user of rice, Anheuser Busch, which purchases more than 9 percent of domestically produced rice.

The class also received an update on US Rice Producers Association activities.

The class then traveled to East Bernard, Texas, where class members met with Ralph Novosad with Hlavinka Equipment Company and Danny Gerson, to talk about Texas rice production.

The next stop was El Campo, Texas, to Rice Belt Warehouse, Inc., the state’s largest rice storage facility, where Dick Ottis of the Rice Belt Warehouse, Inc., and Jay Davis of Coastal Rice and Futures described their use of sales offices in south Texas.

On the last day of class in Texas, producer Traci Garrett Harvey explained her seed rice operation. The class wrapped up its Texas tour with a stop in Beaumont, where Mike Doguet used his rice mill, sod farm, cattle operation and crawfish farm to demonstrate the importance of diversification.

In Lake Charles, La., Philip Bertrand with Farmers Rice Milling Company explained Louisiana rice marketing. The class also toured the company’s Agrilectric Power Plant, which burns rice hulls to power the rice mill and sells surplus electricity.

Christian Richard, Dane Hebert, and Jeff Durand sponsored a crawfish boil for the class, during which Howard Cormier and Johnny Saichuk discussed salt intrusion problems that still face producers as a result of previous hurricanes.

The class toured LSU’s Research Station in Crowley, La., where alumnus Steve Linscombe summarized the latest rice research.

The class then visited the Louisiana Bag Company in Crowley to observe the production of the bags used to send U.S. rice around the world.

For the final day, the class visited Metairie, La., where representatives of the Russell Marine Group explained its laboratory testing service and provided a tour of the mid-stream loading facility on the Mississippi River, where an ocean-going barge was being loaded for international shipment.

John Deere Co. and Syngenta America sponsor the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation, and the USA Rice Federation administers it.