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Rice leaders explore the future of California rice industry

The Rice Leadership Development class received an overview of rice marketing, production practices, specialty product development, clean water and air issues and observed the rice harvest in California, Sept. 23-29.

The California Rice Commission kicked-off the weeklong class session with a half-day seminar on the challenges and opportunities facing the California rice industry. The seminar included guest speakers Dar Mims, meteorologist for the California Air Resources Board, and Amanda Smith, Environmental Scientist with the California Water Board.

The students also discussed and observed marketing efforts, value added product development and milling practices at Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, American Commodity Company, PGP International, Lundberg Family Farms and SunWest Foods throughout the week.

John Ford, director of the Feather River Fish Hatchery, explained how California is working to keep salmon plentiful and off the endangered species list. The class traveled to the Glenn Colusa Irrigation District, where they viewed the $80 million Glenn Colusa Fish Screen Project and learned how agriculture and nature can work together for a better environment. The project protects young Chinook juvenile salmon as well as providing the needed water for rice growers in the water district.

John Valpey, Connell Rice and Sugar, updated the class members on trade issues that impact California rice sales. Leo and Sid LaGrande informed the class about production practices, water and land costs as well as marketing issues. The students visited Ducks Unlimited’s western regional office that provided updates on additional waterfowl habitat and water conservation projects in California.

The leadership class will meet for the fourth and final session in February 2007 in Washington, D.C., which will also include a special graduation ceremony.

Rice producer members include Jeff Durand of St. Martinville, La.; David Gairhan of Trumann, Ark.; Christian Richard of Kaplan, La.; Jeff Rutledge of Newport, Ark. and Don Traynham of Arbuckle, Calif. Industry-related members include Tim Walker of Merigold, Miss. and Philip Bertrand of Elton, La.

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

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