The Rice Foundation: Industry visionaries pave the way

Betsy Ward

By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

More than 30 years ago, a group of visionaries in the rice industry got together to create The Rice Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to ensuring the long-term sustainability and future competitiveness of the U.S. rice industry.

The way they set out to do this was clear: Membership would be open to all segments of the rice industry, and the foundation would identify issues important to the industry and fund research projects to address them. In 1989, the foundation added education and leadership development to its portfolio by launching the Rice Leadership Development Program.

The Rice Foundation has funded dozens of studies and greatly improved our understanding of rice from the groundbreaking nutrition research that helped secure the whole-grain designation for brown rice to cutting-edge grain quality studies.

It also has underwritten the somewhat controversial look at arsenic in rice to the landmark research that helped launch the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship program that has in turn netted tens of millions of dollars for rice farmers and conservation. As a result, The Rice Foundation has lived up to its founders’ ideals of always looking to the future.

With the retirement earlier this year of long-time director Chuck Wilson, the foundation is entering a new era.
The new director is no stranger to either The Rice Foundation or rice research. Dr. Steve Linscombe has spent more than three decades in rice research at Louisiana State University.

In fact, some of his LSU scientists had projects funded by the foundation, and Steve is himself a graduate of the Rice Leadership Development Program.

As Steve and the board chart a course for the foundation’s next 30 years, I would suggest the organization is even more relevant today than it was when it was founded.

More relevant today than ever

From challenges to rice’s nutritional value in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans being rewritten in the next two years to the ever-increasing pressures being placed on farmers to produce more food with a smaller footprint, there is no end to research that needs to be undertaken.

The wonderful thing about The Rice Foundation is that it is a non-partisan organization. The different segments of the industry are represented, but all board members bring their experience and expertise to meetings.

They leave their personal and business interests at the door. And by stepping back like this, they can have honest, and sometimes difficult, discussions looking at, “What is best for the industry here? What does the industry need?”

Rice Leadership Program

Chuck Wilson, left, leads members of the Rice Leadership Development Program—photo courtesy USA Rice

The Rice Foundation is funded by dues, contributions, a portion of Tariff Rate Quota funds from rice sales to Europe and support from research boards in five of the six rice-growing states. And several rice industry leaders have stepped up each year to fund costs associated with the leadership program.

Without the support of American Commodity Co., RiceTec Inc., John Deere and Horizon Ag, this critical program would not exist.

Although needs pile up, resources grow thin.

USA Rice is backing The Rice Foundation’s efforts to expand the base of its support, and you will be hearing more about this in the coming months. In the meantime, I suggest you look around your operation and consider whether it is Rice Foundation-funded research that contributed to what you see.

From blackbird and red rice management to nitrogen application and inorganic arsenic mitigation, I think we all owe thanks to The Rice Foundation. I hope you will join me in supporting them even more than you have in the past.

You can learn more about The Rice Foundation at www.usarice.com/foundation.