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Mid-South producers explore California rice industry

Rice producer from the Mid-South were part of the leadership development class that received an overview of rice marketing, production practices, specialty product development, clean water and air issues and observed the rice harvest in California in late September.

Producer members of the class are Bubba Simmons of Hollandale, Miss.; Bryan Leonards of Crowley, La.; Jeremy Baltz of Pocahontas, Ark.; Ross Hebert of Abbeville, La.; Henry Kalfsbeek of Sacramento, Calif. The industry-related member is Brian King of Marked Tree, Ark.

The California Rice Commission kicked off the week-long session with a half-day seminar on the challenges and opportunities facing the California rice industry. The seminar featured Dar Mims, meteorologist for the California Air Resources Board, as the guest speaker.

Throughout the week, participants in the Leadership Development Program class reviewed marketing activities, value-added product development and milling practices at Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, American Commodity Company, PGP International, Lundberg Family Farms and SunWest Foods.

John Ford, director of the Feather River Fish Hatchery, detailed California’s work to keep salmon plentiful and off the endangered species list. The class traveled to the Cordua Irrigation District, where farmer Charley Mathews Sr. showed them a fish screen project that protects young Chinook juvenile salmon as well as provides the needed water for rice growers in the water district. They also learned how agriculture and nature can work together for a better environment.

Michael Rue, chairman of the USA Rice Federation Asia Trade Policy Subcommittee, provided an update on trade issues that impact California rice sales.

At LaGrand Ranches, farmers Leo and Sid LaGrand provided an overview of production practices, water and land costs, as well as marketing issues. The class also observed harvest on the ranch.

The leadership class will meet for its fourth and final session in Washington, D.C., Feb. 11-15. A special ceremony will be held at the completion of the class.

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.

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