Historically, success in the rice industry was determined primarily by quantity of rice grown per acre, so in Arkansas a great crop would be 177 bushels per acre, in Louisiana 49 barrels per acre, and in California 80 sacks per acre. Recently, however, producers realized that to stay economically prosperous, they not only need to concentrate on the quantity of rice per acre produced, but the quality of their crop as well.

And the dynamics of the rice industry reflect this sentiment and offer insight as to why the Rice Foundation’s two-year Rice Leadership Development Program is so important.

As a member of the 2013-15 Rice Leadership Development Class, I took part in the first session of the program, held March 10 -15. There was one statement that was repeated by all the rice professionals we had the pleasure of meeting during the experience: the quality of rice grown in the United States has declined rapidly over the past several years. But no one mentioned that rice has to be the only high-quality commodity to come from our industry.

The opportunity to participate in the Leadership Development Class is an example of the quest for quality within our industry. Our class of five rice producers and two industry-related professionals was chosen based on characteristics that implLOUISIANA RICE FARMER John Compton, wife Brianne, daughters Ava and baby Kathryn.y leadership capability — the hope is the program will prepare us to be better leaders. Our class realizes that well-trained, quality leaders are more valuable and effective in achieving goals than a large group of people without management capabilities.

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Early in the week, we learned about the organizational structure of the USA Rice Federation. Effective leadership at USA Rice is important because our industry is smaller than that of other commodity groups. While we may lack numbers, we were shown how USA Rice does the best to promote our industry, however small, to people who otherwise might overlook its importance. We also visited the US Rice Producers Association office in Houston, Texas. It was interesting to learn about the history of that organization, and the steps they take to promote rough rice both in the United States and abroad, mainly to Mexico and South America.

As we met other rice industry professionals, it became clear to me that the quality of the people within this industry will help it confront any concerns related to the quality of the product. We met with Leadership program alumni during our tour of the Gulf Coast rice-producing regions. Our first introduction was to alumnus Michael Creed. Creed is an international rice broker who made the world of rice seem larger than life.

At Hlavinka Equipment Company, a large implement dealer in East Bernard, Texas, we met alumnus, Terry Hlavinka, who talked about the international business his company has developed in Central Africa. This business was garnered not only because Hlavinka Equipment had the quantity of products needed for the foreign market, but also because the quality of goods and services to their customers is superlative.

Another example of quality people being quality leaders is a group of rice growers south of Houston faced with major adversity, namely lack of water for crop irrigation. When this small group of rice farmers gather to fight for water rights to be used for nothing more than what they yearn to do, farm rice, they are easily outnumbered. But quality people like alumni Linda Raun, chairman of the USA Rice Producers Group, and producer Ronald Gertson, who has forgotten more about Texas water rights to farmers than most people will ever know, have stepped up and fought hard against the masses to keep the rice industry that remains in Texas alive.