By Mallory Everett
Mallory Everett earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agribusiness from Arkansas State University and a Master of Science in Entomology from The University of Arkansas. She now works for Valent USA as a field market development representative and is also active on her family’s 8,000-acre soybean and rice farm in northeast Arkansas.
GULF COAST, USA -- The first session of the Rice Leadership Development Program Class of 2021, we learned about several aspects of the rice industry, mainly focusing on rice production, milling, and trade. Our trip began in Katy, Texas, and spanned the Gulf Coast to New Orleans.
Due to COVID-19 and major life events, two class members were not able to join Session I. Those present were from Arkansas, Missouri, and California, and varied in job descriptions and backgrounds. The diversity of the group and the participation from everyone ensured that we all saw many perspectives and learned from each other’s experiences.
Session I began in a classroom type setting, and our first “teachers” were Michael Creed, with Creed Rice Company, who talked about trade and how his company operates as brokers, and representatives from the U.S. Rice Producers Association who focused on the struggle between rice producers and growing cities, and the issue of water availability. The afternoon class was media training with Steve Powell. I have been through media training several times in the past, and found this one to be top-notch as we not only discussed media tendencies and tactics, but Steve taught us how to stay focused and carefully choose our words.
The rest of Session I included stops at various rice mills and packaging facilities. I have never visited or gone behind-the-scenes of this aspect of the rice industry. Classmates Garret Williams and Adam Shea both work within this segment and their participation allowed for great discussion both during and after the facility tours. The questions they asked were specific and always resulted in informative answers and explanations from our tour guides. This helped me learn basic things about the rice milling and manufacturing industry, but it also pointed up how things vary from state to state.
In Arkansas, we grow a lot of hybrid rice, which is not the case in Texas or Louisiana. We did get to visit the RiceTec facility, but most of the milling facilities we saw dealt with varietal rice. Having Elliot Maschmann, who works in commercial sales for RiceTec, in our class is essential as he is able to explain how different rice production and marketing is in Arkansas compared to other states.
Christine Wiley is the only producer in our class from California and we counted on her to add a different viewpoint about how things are handled out west. She never skipped a beat with all of us Southerners! I truly learned just as much from my classmates as I did from all the tours and am honored to be a part of this special group of rice leaders.
My favorite part of the trip was the day with the Russell Marine Group and seeing a ship loaded. It was eye-opening to learn how much material can be transported via ship versus train or truck. The logistics and teamwork necessary for this operation was incredible. I grew up on a rice farm and do rice research at my current job, so I get to see much of what goes on concerning rice in the field. I have seen the trucks haul to the grain bins, and I have been involved somewhat in marketing rice on my family farm, but I have never gotten to see what happens after that point. Had it not been for the Rice Leadership Program, I probably would have never seen this side of the rice business. This experience taught me the importance of rice to both the U.S and globally, and it emphasized the need to keep rice as a relevant and sustainable crop here in our country.
Session I of the Rice Leadership Development Program definitely changed my perspective on the rice industry. Each of us plays a vital role – we need each other! What I do as a researcher is essential, but it’s a very small aspect in a huge industry. Seeing so many others doing a wide variety of jobs for the rice industry was very uplifting.
In my line of work, the rice industry always plays second fiddle to larger commodities such as soybeans and corn but being around people growing, milling, manufacturing, and transporting rice, makes me even more excited to be a part of this industry and part of the Rice Leadership Development Program.
The Rice Leadership Development Program is sponsored by American Commodity Company, John Deere, and RiceTec and is administered by The Rice Foundation.