“Super Seniors” Graduate from Rice Leadership Development Program

Steve Linscombe at podium with hand raised stands next to Secy Vilsack
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) counts himself among Rice Leadership alumni at graduation ceremony in Washington last week
Mar 07, 2023
WASHINGTON, DC – The 2021-23 Rice Leadership Development Class recently completed the two-year program with their final session held in conjunction with the USA Rice Legislative Fly-In in Washington, DC, February 26 – March 1.

“This group had a very different trajectory due to the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of the program.  “They were selected during the Rice Outlook Conference in Little Rock in December 2019, and their program, which should have begun in 2020, ended up being extended by a year.”

Upon arriving in Washington, the class traveled to the USA Rice staff office in Arlington, Virginia, to review the week ahead and discuss the many issues USA Rice is working on for the industry.

On Monday, the group put that information to practice as they visited the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) headquarters and met with staff from several different agencies that fall under the USDA umbrella of departments that are of vital importance to the industry including the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the Farm Service Agency (FSA), and the World Agricultural Outlook Board.  The class then sat in on the Word Market Price Subcommittee meeting.

On Tuesday, the class joined the USA Rice Farm Policy Task Force meeting that concluded with a presentation by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.  The class then had their formal graduation ceremony where they received diplomas and a special leadership alumni lapel pin.  Linscombe presented Secretary Vilsack with his own leadership pin saying, “This is a special honor, Mr. Secretary, because you’re the first person to receive a pin who has not actually graduated from the Leadership Program.”

Class spokesperson, Christine Wylie, from Colusa, California, talked about the impact the class had on her outlook for the future of U.S. agriculture.  She encouraged everyone in the audience to have at least one conversation a day about U.S. ag with someone not involved in the industry as an effective way to spread the message about the vital role the industry plays in our country’s food security.

Class members then joined their individual home state delegations making visits on Capitol Hill and speaking with legislators about the importance of the upcoming farm bill and significant concerns that are likely unique to rice that the industry hopes to see included.

In addition to Wylie, class members are Elliot Maschmann from Oran, Missouri; Mallory Scott from Wynne, Arkansas; Adam Shea from Little Rock, Arkansas; Derek Sohnrey from Durham, California; and Garrett Williams from Stuttgart, Arkansas.

During their four sessions, they visited rice growing regions in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas where they met rice producers and industry leaders.  They also attended several sessions on improving leadership skills.

The Rice Leadership Development Program is sponsored by American Commodity Company, John Deere, and RiceTec.  The program is open to U.S. rice producers or individuals who work in the rice industry between the ages of 25-45.  

The application period will open in July and details will be announced in the USA Rice Daily.