Steven Linscombe, Schultz, Bruce | 4/14/2006 1:53:40 AM
The USA Rice Leadership Development Class recently toured the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station during its swing through Louisiana.
"This is the reason I wanted to go on this tour," said class member Andy Kendig of Missouri as he entered the station’s front door.
The leadership program gives future agricultural leaders the chance to learn about all aspects of the rice industry and to develop their leadership skills.
Dr. Steve Linscombe, the LSU AgCenter’s regional director for southwestern Louisiana and a rice breeder, has met with several of the USA Rice classes through the years. He said the program ensures that the rice industry maintains its prominence in the agricultural world.
"The rice leadership program is an excellent mechanism for the development of leadership skills and experience for those who will guide the rice industry into the future," Linscombe said. "The program provides fundamentals on aspects such as public speaking and teamwork.
"In addition, it affords an opportunity for participants to develop a keen understanding of all aspects of the U.S. rice industry and to develop acquaintances and friendships that will last a lifetime."
The Rice Leadership Development class is composed 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 age 25-45 at the time of application and derive their primary livelihood from some aspect of the rice industry.
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. Class members attend four week-long training sessions to strengthen their leadership skills.
"A key to a successful industry is the strength of its leaders," Rice Foundation Chairman Gary Sebree said. "We have formed this leadership program for emerging leaders to provide them the knowledge and skills needed to work on behalf of the rice industry."
John Deere Co. and Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. sponsor the program through a grant to the Rice Foundation. The USA Rice Federation administers the program.
One of the current class members, farmer Ross Hebert of Vermilion Parish, said one of the benefits of being in the program is comparing his agricultural practices with those of other farmers.
"It’s funny when you get to talking about your farm how different operations can be," he said.
Growers often are reluctant to talk about their individual farming programs and techniques, Hebert said.
"I’m glad I applied for the class," he said, adding, "At first, I didn’t want to take away time from the farm."
Crowley farmer Bryan "Buck" Leonards also is in the class. Leonards said many people are natural leaders.
"Then there are those of us who have the love of our industry and the desire to help but lack the skills and confidence to take the reigns," Leonards said.
He said the class has developed camaraderie. "We quickly found out that our concerns for our struggling industry were similar and that our conviction must be steadfast in order to make things better," Leonards explained.
From March 26 through March 31, the class was in Texas and Louisiana under the guidance of Chuck Wilson, manager of the program. In Houston, they toured the Budweiser brewery, Riviana Foods, RiceTec, Jacko Garrett Farms and Doguet’s Rice Mill, Sod Farm and Crawfish operation.
In Louisiana, they went to the Farmers Rice Mill in Lake Charles, ate crawfish cooked by Dane Hebert and stopped at Christian Richard’s farm to ride in a crawfish boat and watch water-leveling. Then they learned about research at the Rice Research Station with Linscombe as their guide. On the finals day, they went to New Orleans where they saw hurricane damage and watched the loading of rice onto a ship in the Mississippi River.
The next tour is in June to Arkansas’s rice-growing region and the Chicago Board of Trade. Next year, the class visits the California rice-growing area before this group has its final session in Washington D.C.
"I’m really looking forward to the California trip," Hebert said. The different growing techniques in an arid climate and the restrictions on water are vastly different from Louisiana’s rice belt," he said.
In addition to Kendig, Hebert and Leonards, the class includes Bubba Simmons of Mississippi, Henry Kalfsbeek of California, and Jeremy Baltz and Brian King, both from Arkansas.