USA Rice Leadership Program Adopts New Schedule to Accommodate COVID-19 Restrictions

Group shot of people standing near the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
No new participants will be selected in 2020
Jul 13, 2020
MOUNTAIN HOME, TX -- The USA Rice Leadership Development Program is a mainstay of the USA rice industry.  Under the direction of The Rice Foundation, the program selects seven participants (producers and industry) each year and through four one-week sessions over two years, provides them with a thorough understanding of all aspects of the industry with the goal of providing the background necessary for class members to become future successful leaders.
Typically, the seven class members are selected in a competitive process that culminates in interviews with a selection committee during the annual USA Rice Outlook Conference each December.  That class then has two sessions the following year:  March in Texas and Louisiana, and June in Chicago, Moline, Illinois, Arkansas, and Mississippi.  The California session is held in September of the next year and the fourth session is held during the USA Rice Government Outlook Conference the following February.
Each year an international session is also held where leadership program alumni can apply to participate in a session in an international location to learn about the rice industry there.  This session is normally conducted in late October-early November.
The program has three excellent long-term sponsors in American Commodity Company, John Deere, and RiceTec, and the Texas Rice Producers Board contributes to support the session while the group is in Texas.  
The program has been in existence more than 30 years and more than 210 individuals have participated.  Many of these alumni have held or are currently holding important leadership positions in the industry.
However, this year’s program has been dramatically altered by the coronavirus pandemic.  The class that was selected for the program last December by now should have completed Sessions I & II.  Those two sessions were postponed because of current travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines.  Also, the California session for the class selected in 2018 is scheduled for September but it is currently unclear if that session will take place.  In addition, the international session scheduled for this fall is unlikely to take place due to international travel restrictions.  
To address this situation, a Rice Leadership Program Advisory Group was formed consisting of one program alumni from each of the six major rice producing states, a representative from each of the three sponsors, the chair of The Rice Foundation, and Chuck Wilson, who is retired but directed the program for many years.  This group unanimously recommended to putting the program on hold for one year.  In other words, no new participants will be selected in December of this year and those selected in 2019 will begin their program in March 2021.
The Advisory Group determined that this was the most logical solution to providing a normal program for these class members.  The group also recommended extending the maximum age limit for application to the program (45) by one year for the next selection cycle so no one will miss out on applying.
Since the leadership program is under the direction of The Rice Foundation, these recommendations were reviewed by the Foundation’s board of directors at the board’s recent meeting and unanimously approved.
The next call for applications for the program will be issued in July 2021.  Notification of the program’s new timeline will be shared in the USA Rice Daily and on the USA Rice website.  (Go here to subscribe to the USA Rice Daily.)
The September session in California and the alumni international session this fall have not yet been officially canceled, however, if conditions disallow one or both sessions, those would be pushed back to 2021 as well.
For more information about the Rice Leadership Development Program, please contact Steve Linscombe.