WASHINGTON, DC -- The Rice Leadership Development Program's Class of 2014-16 graduated from the prestigious program during a special ceremony at the USA Rice Federation's 2016 Government Affairs Conference this week. Rice Foundation Chairman Todd Burich and USA Rice Chairman Dow Brantley presided over the ceremony, congratulating the graduates and thanking program sponsors, John Deere, RiceTec, Inc., and American Commodity Company.
The class is made up of five rice producers: Derek Haigwood, Newport, AR; Jeremy Jones, England, AR; Jon Munger, Yuba City, CA; Will Reneau, Beaumont, TX; Clay Schaefer, Hunter, AR; and two industry representatives: Jonathan Hobbs, Russell Marine Group, Jefferson, LA; and A.J. Sabine, Louisiana Farm Bureau, Baton Rouge, LA.
Jonathan Hobbs served as class spokesperson. He expressed his appreciation to the many people the class met who are involved "in helping execute the bigger picture of putting U.S. rice on the table for millions of families around the world."
Hobbs concluded his commencement speech with a rallying cry to his fellow classmates saying, "Let's put our heads together and help these committees develop strategies to win back markets we've lost. Let's take back Nicaragua, the EU, and Iraq. Let's go get Cuba. As far as U.S. rice demand goes, those things are game changers for everyone here. Let's listen to our markets and learn from our past mistakes. Let's be active leaders."
The class was immediately put to work representing the rice industry during the conference, participating in multiple meetings with Members of Congress, staff from key Congressional Committees, and agency representatives.
They also met with officials at CropLife America to discuss the responsible use of environmentally sound crop protection products, and got a lesson in high tech agriculture from the FAS/USDA Global Analysis, International Production Assessment Division where they observed how crop assessments around the world are made using satellites.
While in Washington, the group is also scheduled to meet Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas of the Cuban Embassy to discuss the potential for rice trade between the two countries as well as attend the USA Rice World Market Price Subcommittee meetings.
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 communication training. During a two-year period, class members attend four one-week sessions that are designed to strengthen their leadership skills.
If you have interest in applying for the 2017 Rice Leadership Development Program, contact Chuck Wilson at email@example.com
Back row, from left: John Munger, Jonathan Hobbs, Derek Haigwood, Will Reneau, A.J. Sabine, Jeremy Jones, Clay Shaefer, and Chuck Wilson.
Seated, from left: Larry Haugen, RiceTec; Nicole Van Vleck, American Commodity Company; John Rauber, Jr., John Deere; and Todd Burich.