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July 2024

Texas and California Take Chairs on Rice Boards

LITTLE ROCK, AR – With their two-year terms ending later this month, the chairs of two USA Rice governing boards handed their gavels to colleagues from other rice growing states. LG Raun, a Texas rice farmer in Wharton County, was unanimously elected to serve as the new chair of the USA Rice Farmers Board of Directors, taking over from Mississippi’s Curtis Berry, and Louisiana rice farmer Eric Unkel handed the reins of the USA Rice Council Board of Directors to California’s Josh Sheppard who farms in Butte County.

Raun steps into the top spot on the Farmers Board in the middle of negotiations on the new Farm Bill, but as the vice chair for the last two years and with many years of experience going back and forth from El Campo to Capitol Hill, the transition will be seamless.

“This board exists specifically for the industry’s farmers to iron out any potential policy differences and to unite behind a single strategy,” Raun said. “Curtis has done a great job shepherding us here and I’ll see to it we get a new Farm Bill that works for agriculture, particularly rice.”

The USA Rice Council oversees and authorizes funding for promotion and education efforts for the U.S. rice industry, annually directing upwards of $5 million domestically, in addition to overseeing the roughly $6 million contract with USDA-FAS for international rice promotion. Sheppard, who has been the vice chair representing California since 2017 takes over at a time when rice acreage throughout the U.S. is rebounding, meaning additional resources flowing into the Council over the next year at least.

“Eric did an outstanding job of steering us through some lean times, but he always was clear-eyed about the mission and he’s left our organization in strong financial shape and well positioned to continue the fight for U.S.-grown rice,” Sheppard said during the Board meeting here earlier this month.

The USA Rice Farmers Board also elected Louisiana rice farmer Fred Zaunbrecher as vice chair and California appointed rice farmer Tom Butler to Sheppard’s vacated vice chair seat. Each new appointee will serve a two-year term that begins August 1, 2023. QR Code

Published Date: July 19, 2023

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