2019 USA Rice Outlook Conference Covers New Ground, Sets Stage for Continued Enhancements

Keynote speaker Dr. Shimi Kang talking stress with Arkansas farmer Mike Sullivan
Keynote speaker Dr. Shimi Kang talked about stress management with Arkansas farmer Mike Sullivan
Dec 13, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS – The 2019 USA Rice Outlook Conference wrapped here earlier this week with an unprecedented level of programming for the more than 850 attendees.

“Over the three days of the conference we had more than 30 hours of programming, 48 sessions, and almost 80 different presenters sharing insights and knowledge from our five stages,” said USA Rice Chair and California rice farmer Charley Mathews, Jr.  “I can’t recall an Outlook Conference this densely packed with opportunities.”

Navigating all that programming could have proved a challenge, but this year USA Rice unveiled a mobile app, sponsored by BASF, to help attendees get where they needed to be, connect with each other, post running comments on the sessions, and offer immediate feedback on speakers and programs.

The second General Session that closed the conference featured Outlook mainstays Nathan Childs and Jim Wiesemeyer and added Outlook newcomer A.B. Stoddard.

Childs, an agricultural economist with USDA’s Economic Research Service, shared data from the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) released moments before he took the stage on Tuesday.

Wiesemeyer, policy analyst for Pro Farmer, described the lay of the political landscape as he sees it, offering insights into who will be influential in ag policy in 2020 and what the election season may hold.

A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist with RealClearPolitics, provided in-depth political analysis of the current state of affairs, and predicted that the 2020 presidential election will, in the end, come down to Wisconsin, and shared the very real possibility of a truly brokered Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee next July.

The session also featured the long-awaited drawing for the Think Rice Road Trip Truck.  Almost 700 hopefuls had cast their lot to leave with the tricked out 2019 F-150 that had spent the previous three months traversing the Mid-Atlantic promoting U.S.-grown rice and was parked prominently in the Exhibit Hall throughout the Conference.  At the appointed hour, 80th International Rice Festival Queen AnnaLisa Meredith drew the lucky winner – Randy McNeil from Jonesboro, Arkansas.

It wasn’t just the schedule that was packed, the Exhibit Hall itself was bursting at the seams with a record 87 exhibitors and the four program stages sponsored by FMC, Heritage Agriculture of Arkansas, Indigo Ag, and The Rice Foundation.  Rice grading technology, mill equipment, and of course farm equipment were all on display, as were financial service companies, regulatory agencies, and more.  There was even an opportunity for attendees to eat without leaving the hall with the Riceland Food Truck serving up delicious gumbo, jambalaya, and more, all featuring U.S.-grown rice.

“We took some risks in expanding certain areas of this Outlook Conference, but they really seemed to pay off, enhancing both the attendee and sponsor/exhibitor experience,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “Planning is already underway for Outlook 2020 in Austin, Texas, and we’re determined to outdo ourselves, though that’s going to be a tall order for sure.”

Attendees of the 2019 USA Rice Outlook Conference still have the opportunity to complete surveys on the sessions they attended and access presenter materials via in the mobile app, and feedback is always welcome and encouraged.