Technical Advances and Optimism on Display in California

Man in yellow and blue plaid shirt talks with woman wearing pink shirt & hat
Charley Mathews Jr. and Betsy Ward
Sep 04, 2019
SACRAMENTO, CA -- USA Rice staff traveled to California last week for a three-day visit that included tours of farms and mills, meetings with members, and the California Rice Field Day.

USA Rice CEO Betsy Ward, Manager of International Policy Jesica Kincaid, and Manager of Government Affairs Jamison Cruce traveled more than 500 miles through the heart of California rice country to hear about the process from production, to milling, to legislation and regulations.  

“Our industry faces a myriad of trade issues and it was beneficial to hear first-hand from our farmers and millers how these issues affect them and their businesses,” said Cruce who, along with Kincaid, was visiting the California rice growing region for the first time.

On August 28, the annual Rice Field Day was held at the Rice Research Station in Biggs.  More than 200 farmers, researchers, and industry members attended and learned about the latest developments in rice breeding.  The day began with the presentation of awards for the annual yield contest and the California Rice Industry Award that was presented to Frank Rehermann, former chair of the USA Rice Farmers Board of Directors.  

Following the awards, attendees piled into flatbed trucks and headed to the rice fields where researchers explained the many experimental rice types growing there.  The objective of the rice research station is to breed rice varieties with higher yields, improved cold tolerance and straw strength, blast and stem rot resistance, and herbicide tolerance.

Also along for the ride in California was Lita Echiverri, rice marketing specialist at the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service.  A California native, this was Echiverri’s first visit to the rice producing part of the state.

“The U.S. rice industry consistently offers a variety of quality rice to partners worldwide,” she said.  “This trip further confirmed why the U.S. continues to be a global leader in the industry.”   

As is typical, uncertainty is always just below the surface when it comes to agriculture.  But the excitement and optimism was palpable and on display all week.

“Despite the ongoing issues of trade negotiations, weather, and regulatory challenges, the overall outlook of the California rice industry is optimistic,” said Charley Mathews, Jr., rice farmer and chair of USA Rice.  “A strong planting season, new technologies, and potential new markets are giving the region something to look forward to.”