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Industry News: January 2022

USA Rice recognizes 2 sustainability leaders

U.S. Rice recently honored two industry leaders for their long-standing contributions to sustainability and conservation. The awards were presented during the USA Rice Outlook Conference Awards Luncheon.

The USA Rice Distinguished Conservation Award was established more than a decade ago by California rice grower Al Montna during his chairmanship of USA Rice. At the luncheon, Montna’s daughter and 2021 Rice Farmer of the year Nicole Montna Van Vleck presented this year’s award. 

nicole van vleck jeff durand
Nicole Montna Van Vleck and Jeff Durand.
Photos courtesy USA Rice

“Because last year’s Outlook Conference was canceled, we have not recognized anyone for the Distinguished Conservation Award since December 2019. So when we began the process to identify the most deserving recipient, Conservation Committee chair Leo LaGrande stated that we need to recognize someone who could win this award two years in a row to make up for last year.”

One name rose to the top: Jeff Durand, a man who has given selflessly to the U.S. rice industry. Jeff began farming rice and crawfish in St. Martinsville with his brothers, C.J. and Greg, in the 1970s, and conservation has long been an integral part of their operation. 

No-till has been implemented on Durand Farms since 1980, and their water and nutrient management and wildlife habitat efforts are award winning. 

The Powell Group representatives, from left: Patrick Hartwell, Philip Bertrand, Laura Kelly and Jack McClelland.
Photos courtesy USA Rice

The USA Rice Sustainability Award was created in 2016. It recognizes the efforts of all segments of the industry to not only conserve natural resources but to find ways to address all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social. A subcommittee of the USA Rice Sustainability Committee chooses the winner based on several criteria, including leadership in the industry and broader sustainability community, and a history of promoting and advancing sustainability through innovative practices.

Laura Kelly represented The Powell Group that received the 2021 USA Rice Sustainability Award in recognition of the company’s three distinct entities that lend themselves the most to sustainability. They are Agrilectric power partners, Agrilectric Research Co. and B.H. Mitigation.

Case IH, MacDon partner on draper headers

Racine, Wisconsin-based Case IH has partnered with MacDon Industries Ltd. to manufacture co-branded draper headers designed for Case IH Axial-Flow combines. The new line of draper headers will be available to order in early 2022 at Case IH Dealers on a worldwide basis, except for South America.

“Case IH and MacDon have a shared legacy and goal of making harvesting easier and more productive for North American farmers,” Scott Harris, Case IH global president, said in a news release. “By pairing Case IH’s industry-leading portfolio of Axial-Flow combines and a robust dealer network with MacDon’s draper header expertise and products, we aim to deliver a best-in-class harvesting package for producers.”

Based in Manitoba, Canada, MacDon has manufactured high-performance harvesting equipment for more than 70 years. The company is known for working directly with producers and custom harvesters to make equipment that helps producers efficiently harvest crops and fuel the world.

For more information about Case IH, visit For more information about MacDon, visit

Seated, from left: Rice Foundation Board Chair David Petter, and program sponsors Brian Ottis (RiceTec), Nicole Van Vleck (ACC) and Chris Crutchfield (ACC). Class members standing, from left: Peter Rystrom, John McGraw, Julie Richard, Adam McCalister and Conner Popeck (not pictured: Daniel Cavazos and Corey Conner).
Photos courtesy USA Rice

2022-24 Rice Leadership class named

Members of the 2022-24 Rice Leadership Development Program class were announced recently during the annual Rice Awards Luncheon at the 2021 USA Rice Outlook Conference. The class is composed of seven rice industry professionals selected by a committee of agribusiness leaders.

“This is an outstanding group that displays exceptional leadership potential. They are also diverse, both in background and geographically,” said Rice Foundation director Steve Linscombe.

The new rice-producer class members are Daniel Cavazos, Wellington, Florida; John McGraw, Star City, Arkansas; Conner Popeck, Gueydan, Louisiana; Julie Richard, Kaplan, Louisiana; and Peter Rystrom, Chico, California.

The new industry-related class members are Corey Conner, Lake Arthur, Louisiana; and Adam McCalister, Woodland, California.

The Rice Leadership Development Program gives young men and women a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. rice industry, with an emphasis on personal development and communication training. During a two-year period, class members attend four one-week sessions designed to strengthen their leadership skills.

John Deere Co., RiceTec Inc. and American Commodity Co. sponsor the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation, and USA Rice manages the program.

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