Rice Foundation Chairman Ernest E. Girouard announced the selection of the 2007 Rice Leadership Development class at the USA Rice Outlook Conference.

The new rice producer class members are: Trent Dabb from Stuttgart, Ark.; John Fred Denison from Iowa, La.; Eric Leonard from Corning, Ark.; Jessica Lundberg from Chico, Calif.; and Eric Unkel from Kinder, La. The new industry-related class members are: Shelley Smith from Boyle, Miss., and Jennifer Wells from Memphis, Tenn.

“A key to a successful industry is the strength of its leaders,” Girouard said. “We have formed this leadership program for emerging leaders to help provide them the knowledge and skills needed to work on behalf of the rice industry.”

The Rice Leadership Development class is comprised of five rice producers and two industry-related professionals. A committee of agribusiness leaders evaluates the applications, reviews letters of recommendation and conducts personal interviews with the finalists. Candidates must be 25 to 45 years of age at the time of application and derive their primary livelihoods from some aspect of the rice industry.

“Many of the alumni are currently serving in key positions on various industry boards and committees. Three of the four member organizations of USA Rice are chaired by program alumni: John King chairs the USA Rice Council, Paul Combs chairs the USA Rice Producers Group and Brain King chairs the USA Rice Merchants' Association,” Girouard said.

The Rice Leadership Development Program gives young men and women a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. rice industry, with an emphasis on personal development and communications training.

John Deere Company and Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., sponsor the program through a grant to The Rice Foundation. The USA Rice Federation administers the program.