Dec 09, 2019
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- The number one rice-producing state rolled out the red carpet for the more than 800 attendees at this year’s USA Rice Outlook Conference with electronic welcome signs at Clinton National Airport and logo banners flying from street signs throughout the capital. And while this annual meeting is all about the rice business, the grand opening reception last night inside the Statehouse Convention Center had a laid-back atmosphere with a mixture of gaming tables such as ping-pong, air hockey, and foosball, for folks to loosen up and engage in some light-hearted competition.
The emphasis on play was a nod to today’s keynote speaker, Dr. Shimi Kang, an expert on human motivation and neuroscience, who studies stress and the impact it has on our bodies and minds. Kang talked about stress-related illness as a major public health crisis, and then showed how our bodies have the ability to naturally de-stress through play, social interaction, and downtime. With Arkansas rice farmer Mike Sullivan as a willing subject, Kang did a live demonstration on the effectiveness of these biofeedback techniques for lowering stress, and alleviating anxiety and depression.
“There are few professions where uncertainty plays a greater role than farming,” said USA Rice Chair and California rice farmer Charley Mathews, Jr. “The mental exercises Dr. Kang shared are good strategies to help us put things in perspective, and important tools to incorporate into our daily routines to remind us to slow down, reflect, and be grateful.”
Mathews emceed the first General Session that included speakers from Indigo Ag, Frost PLLC, a local food and agriculture CPA firm, and a special appearance by Matthew Lohr, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
In between videos about sustainability and the professional chefs’ tour of Mississippi rice country, Brantley Farms received this year’s USA Rice Conservation Award and the USA Rice Political Action Committee honored Nolen Canon for his commitment to the U.S. rice industry.
USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward also honored Gaby Carbajal and Marvin Lehrer of Mexpromos for their dedication to the promotion of U.S. rice. Over the past two decades consumption of rice in Mexico has increased 50 percent largely as a result of their efforts.
“Today’s session was just the beginning,” said Ward. “We’ve got another General Session tomorrow plus a full slate of programs on four stages, sponsored by FMC, Indigo Ag, Heritage Agriculture, and the Rice Foundation, set up in different parts of the Exhibit Hall. Attendees never have to leave the venue to hear information on topics ranging from conservation, eCommerce, farm safety, the importance of co-ops, and more.”
The Outlook Conference continues Tuesday with sessions and speakers covering the world of agriculture, politics, statistics, and history.