MEMPHIS, TN – Welcoming everyone to the 2016 USA Rice Outlook Conference last week, host-state representative and Mississippi rice farmer Kirk Satterfield explained, “The conference has grown so much and is still growing that we had to move to Memphis to find a venue big enough to accommodate all the attendees and exhibits. We certainly appreciate the level of participation.”
USA Rice Chairman Brian King echoed that sentiment: “It’s encouraging to see so many in the industry come out - it shows we’re on the right track and offering good value to our customers. Attendance this year was close to 800 and I attribute that statistic to excellent programming - from exciting keynote speakers like NASA Astronaut Michael Massimino, Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones, and crowd-favorite 2017 Miss America Savvy Shields - to the new Innovation Stage, centrally located in the Exhibit Hall that was bursting at the seams with 59 exhibitors.”
“Moving the New Products & Technology seminar to the Innovation Stage concept in the middle of the Exhibit Hall fostered more interaction between members and exhibitors,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward. “We really appreciate all of our exhibitors and sponsors for their support and are always looking for ways to help them promote their products and services.”
Ward also said the Annual Rice Awards Luncheon was a conference highlight. “Attendees heard moving speeches from the award winners, got to meet the 2017/19 Rice Leadership Development Program class, and see the winning entry in the first ever National Rice Month Scholarship video contest,” she said.
Between traditional program offerings like state outlook and rice research reports from all six major rice-producing states, USA Rice showcased several videos, including the P.F. Chang’s Farm-to-Wok video featuring Arkansas rice farmers Jennifer James and Dow Brantley that captures the artistry of rice farming and tells the story of the U.S.-grown grain.
This year’s conference included two panels focusing on conservation and sustainability practices in the rice industry that was moderated by outgoing Chief of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Jason Weller who spoke eloquently about the importance of industries telling their stories. (click here
to see his full remarks)
“In my view, production agriculture is sustainable agriculture, full stop,” Chief Weller said in touching closing remarks. “You guys need to stand up and be proud of what you do, you need to advocate for what you do, and you need to do it in a way that connects with people who aren’t familiar with production agriculture.”
Weller said he figured this would be his last public appearance as NRCS Chief, at least before a commodity group, and he had the date circled on his calendar for some time.
“I am so proud of the partnership NRCS has with the rice industry and I wanted to be here personally to thank you all for your commitment to being partners with us to invest in conservation and really be national leaders – not just regional or local leaders – but national leaders in production agriculture."
“Add up all the good information from the sessions and exhibits, plus getting to see an astronaut and Miss America in the same conference, and you’re getting your money’s worth,” concluded Satterfield.
The Outlook conference is the largest annual rice-specific gathering in North America and is an educational service of USA Rice. Next year’s conference is scheduled for December 10-12 in San Antonio, Texas.