It was refreshing that Kellogg representatives showed a willingness to work with farmers, he said. “I was impressed with their openness to discussion.”

The message from Kellogg was that farmers are operating on a sustainable basis, said Bobby Hanks, chief executive officer of Louisiana Rice Mill. “It’s more of an effort to document what farmers have been doing for the past 20 years,” he said of the proposed program.

The initiative encourages farmers to think progressively and consider making improvements that could cut costs or increase yields, Hanks said. Consumers could be making choices based on environmental practices, and the worst thing that could be done is to ignore the sustainability issue.

“It’s awareness that the issue of sustainability is out there, and we need to understand how it can affect our industry,” Hanks said. “It may ultimately fizzle out and not be a consumer concern, but the worst thing is to be blindsided.”

Diane Holdorf, Kellogg vice president for environmental stewardship, health and safety, said she was encouraged by farmers’ reactions to the meeting. “The majority of farmers were receptive to the program and expressed interest in participating in it in the future. They felt it provided information that was both relevant and useful.”

Kellogg has a history of environmental awareness, Holdorf said. “In fact, the first box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was packaged in 100 percent recycled paperboard in 1906.”

The Master Grower concept will continue that tradition, she said, by raising awareness of rice farming sustainability and the effects of rice farming practices adopted during the past 20 years.

“In particular, it offers us the opportunity to work directly with our growers and explore the growing practices feasible for local farmers to continue improving their sustainable agriculture practices,” Holdorf said. “It has the potential to provide opportunities to decrease their input without sacrificing output, while also helping to improve the environment , which benefits everyone.”