Changing of the guard as USA Rice elects news leadership

• By Deborah Willenborg •

bobby hanks

Bobby Hanks, CEO of Supreme Rice, was elected chairman of USA Rice’s board of directors recently — photo courtesy USA Rice

USA Rice, The Rice Foundation, the USA Rice Millers’ Association and the USA Rice Merchants’ Association elected new chairs for their respective board of directors during recent annual meetings held via video conference calls. All newly elected officers will assume their two-year posts Aug. 1.

USA Rice’s new chair, Bobby Hanks, CEO of Supreme Rice in Crowley, Louisiana, takes over from Charley Mathews Jr., a rice farmer from Marysville, California, who has been chair of the group since 2018.

“Bobby is going to make a great chair,” Mathews said. “He is well versed in U.S. rice industry issues and is a long-term member of USA Rice having joined in 1999 when he first acquired Louisiana Rice Mill.”

Hanks has served on numerous USA Rice committees, including past chair of the Rice Millers’ Association and current chair of the USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee.

“Under Charley’s leadership over the past two years, USA Rice finally opened the world’s largest market – China – to U.S. rice. We also solidified relationships in Iraq, did great outreach on Central America and Mexico, and received our largest ever grant from the federal government to promote U.S., rice overseas,” Hanks said. “He has represented USA Rice in markets around the world, and made presentations at both the annual Mexico trade mission and the annual international promotion planning conference in Colombia in Spanish!

“Here at home, Charley helped us notch wins for rice in domestic purchasing programs and federal aid programs and lent his support to retail efforts. He also visited the White House twice – something no USA Rice chairman has ever done.”

David Petter was elected chair of The Rice Foundation. Petter, a fourth-generation rice farmer from Stuttgart, Arkansas, replaces Frank Carey, who served as chair of The Rice Foundation for two years.

The Rice Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization serves as the research and education program arm for the rice industry. Under Carey’s term, projects like a nutritional analysis on the effects of rice in the diets of infants from birth to 24 months old; a study on improvements in U.S. rice competitiveness; and research on blast in U.S.-grown japonica, invasive pests in Texas rice and acephate degradation were funded.

Outgoing RMA Chair Keith Gray passed the gavel to Keith Glover, president and CEO of Producers Rice Mill. As RMA chair, Gray worked on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the passage and adoption last week of its replacement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He also led efforts to combat unfair trade practices hampering U.S. milled rice exports and oversaw updating RMA membership requirements and benefits and the organization’s dues structure.

Ryan Carwell, vice president at Poinsett Rice and Grain, replaces Dick Ottis who helmed the USA Rice Merchants’ Association for six years. During his tenure as chair, Ottis successfully guided the Merchant’s Association to a much stronger place: reserves have grown, the size of the Board has doubled, and the merchants have a strong, respected voice for the rice industry.

“On behalf of USA Rice, I extend special thanks to our great board leaders who served with distinction over the past two years – Charley, Keith, Dick and Frank,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward. “We are very grateful for their guidance and support.”

In addition to electing new leadership, all USA Rice boards approved their 2020/2021 budgets and the organization’s program of work for the upcoming year.

This article first appeared in USA Rice’s “The Daily.”