By Carroll Smith
The Rice Awards program, sponsored by Horizon Ag, Rice Farming magazine and USA Rice Federation highlights three honorees for their contributions to the success of the rice industry via the Rice Farmer of the Year, the Rice Industry Award and the Rice Lifetime Achievement Award.
On page 18, the beginning of the Rice Lifetime Achievement Award begins with these words: “We all aspire to achieve the American Dream. And, sometimes, that dream comes true through hard work, determination, innovation and dedication.” That’s certainly true of Elton Kennedy, the award recipient, who operates three mills, five drying facilities and thousands of acres of land that he farms, leases or manages.
These prophetic words also ring true for many people involved in the rice industry. In my opinion, of all the commodities, rice has provided a multitude of people the opportunity to realize their own version of the American Dream.
In his Rice Farmer of the Year support letter for Mr. Aguzzi, Dr. Tim Walker, Mississippi State University researcher shared this background with me: “Joe Aguzzi’s grandparents immigrated to the southern United States from Italy in 1895. They originally settled near Lake Village, Ark., as sharecroppers before finally settling in the Cleveland area in the early 1900s. The first land purchase was for 140 acres and took 40 years to pay for.”
Today, Joe and his family operate a successful 10,000-acre family farming operation in which three generations work side-by-side. And they enjoy every minute of it.
Dr. Eric Webster, the recipient of the Rice Industry Award, has dedicated his career in weed research to providing significant improvements in rice weed control through herbicide use, as well as cultural control methods, as noted by Dr. Steve Linscombe, Resident Coordinator, Rice Research Station, Regional Director, Southwest Region. “Perhaps, most importantly, he has been instrumental in developing the technology that led to the development of imidazolinone-resistant rice sold under the trade name Clearfield Rice,” Linscombe adds.
Dr. Webster also states that, to him, one of the highlights of his career is working with the graduate students.
“Seeing them finish their educations and go on to be successful in their careers is very rewarding to me,” he says.
I would like to take this opportunity to personally congratulate the three award winners for showing us through example what wonderful things can be accomplished through determination, innovation and dedication. Thank you, Joe, Eric and Elton, whose cumulative experience represents 122 years in rice. Here’s to many more!
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