It’s never too early to start planning for the Rice Outlook Conference

Betsy Ward

By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

The annual USA Rice Outlook Conference may last only a few days every December, but for us, it’s a year-round job. While the exhibitors are packing up their booths and the attendees are heading home to prepare for the holidays, we’re crouching at the starting gate for the next Outlook.

We hit the ground running every January, integrating the lessons learned from the previous year into the grand plans for the next conference. That’s because, as the rice industry’s largest North American gathering, the Outlook Conference continually evolves and adapts to offer attendees an unparalleled experience.

A mix of old favorites and new topics

With the 2019 Outlook Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, about eight months away, you may not be thinking much about what you’ll learn and hear. But we are, and I couldn’t be more excited about our program.

It retains many of our most popular sessions and topics, such as global production forecasts, key market developments, on-farm safety and the always popular annual Awards Luncheon we put on with Rice Farming magazine and Horizon Ag. But there’s going to be a whole lot more waiting for you in Little Rock this year.

We’re casting an eye to the future with a range of cutting-edge programming. Maybe you’ve heard the term “blockchain” technology tossed around lately, but you’re not sure what it is or how it could improve your operation.

We’ll have a panel of experts discuss how blockchain can be applied to anything from banking to shipping to quality control. Other speakers will address the newest technology in mapping, precision ag, and even robotics and artificial intelligence.

Planned sessions on CRISPR gene editing explore not just the “could we” of modern ag science but also the “should we.”

At a time when scientists have created machines that can literally talk to plants, farmers need to have a handle on all the new innovations that can keep them competitive in a modern world. And Outlook is the perfect way to stay plugged in.

A meeting of sustainability-focused minds

old state house

The Old State House Museum, formerly called the Arkansas State House, is the oldest surviving capitol building west of the Mississippi River — photo by Vicky Boyd

Of course, when it comes to rice, sustainability is front and center. The Outlook Conference is an amazing venue to learn about landmark advances in sustainability, as well as new techniques to adopt on your own farm. And if you’re already on the bandwagon, it’s the perfect space to share your own sustainability story with the community.

Outlook has always been an incubator for innovation that drives our sustainability mission, where rice farmers from across the country can come together and share what methods have worked for them. It’s simply the kind of groundbreaking meeting of minds you won’t find anywhere else.

I’m very excited to announce our 2019 Outlook keynote speaker, Dr. Shimi Kang, an award-winning doctor, researcher, author and neuroscience expert. Kang’s insight into the science behind motivation, stress and wellness comes at an appropriate time as we see stress levels rise for all of us — particularly those working in the unpredictable agriculture sector. Her entertaining talk will be filled with science, stories, tips and tricks, and we’ll all leave with a greater understanding of how we can get some control over our busy lives.

You should mark your calendar and plan to join us in Little Rock, Dec. 8-10. I also challenge you to reach out to someone in the rice industry who has never been to an Outlook Conference and encourage them to invest the time and energy to attend.

They won’t leave empty handed.

Have a great, productive and safe summer, and see you in Little Rock!