Rice Industry Leaders Awarded for Superlative Stewardship Practices

Two men talk and shake hands during award presentation
Leo LaGrande (left) and Dow Brantley
Dec 17, 2019
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Each year the U.S. rice industry singles out leaders in conservation and sustainability, and showcases their stewardship efforts in preserving wildlife habitat and efficient use of natural resources.

Brantley Farms of England, Arkansas, was this year’s Distinguished Conservation Achievement Award winner for preserving and protecting critical habitat for migrating waterfowl.  The Brantley family’s operation has an extensive list of conservation accomplishments including installing nine miles of irrigation pipeline, two surface reservoirs, 4,400 acres of irrigation water management, and 2,700 acres of wetland wildlife management practices all implemented to address water quality.

“Most of you know this family because of the thousands of hours they’ve volunteered for the betterment of our rice industry via multiple leadership roles,” said California rice farmer Leo LaGrande who is chair of the USA Rice Farmers Conservation Committee that determines the winner.  “But what often goes overlooked is how this family is leading the industry by example, on the ground, through investing their time, knowledge, and resources in farming practices and infrastructure that show they are willing to take risks now for the betterment of tomorrow.”

The USA Rice Sustainability Award was created in 2016 to recognize the efforts of all segments of the industry to not only conserve natural resources, but to find innovative ways to address all three pillars of sustainability:  environmental, economic, and social sustainability.  A subcommittee of the USA Rice Sustainability Committee chooses the winner based on several criteria, including leadership in the industry and broader sustainability community, and a history of promoting and advancing sustainability through innovative practices.

Dhu Thompson, CEO of Delta Plastics, received the 2019 USA Rice Sustainability Award for the company’s focus on recycling and reduction of water usage across the Mississippi Delta.  Delta Plastics is one of the largest recyclers of heavily soiled and contaminated plastic in the U.S., and since 1998, has diverted 1 billion pounds of waste material from landfills.  Use of their Pipe Planner software that helps farmers maximize efficiency of polytube irrigation has saved more than 100 billion gallons of water since it was released in 2014.

“Conservation and sustainability have subtle differences, but for USA Rice members, they share a common goal – to preserve productive ricelands for future generations,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “And we’re proud to honor those leaders in our industry who work hard to achieve that goal.”