At this year’s USA Rice Outlook Conference, the rice industry’s growing role in the conservation and sustainability sphere was spotlighted with two different awards, the USA Rice Sustainability Award and the USA Rice Distinguished Conservation Achievement Award.
Jim Whitaker, an Arkansas rice farmer from McGehee, received the first-ever USA Rice Sustainability Award.
In bestowing the award, Jennifer James, another Arkansas rice farmer and chairman of the USA Rice Sustainability Committee, said, “While sustainability is becoming a buzzword in nearly every industry, the rice industry has been incorporating it for years, and with the establishment of the USA Rice Sustainability Award we have taken our rightful place at the forefront of the sustainability movement.”
Whitaker was quick to acknowledge the role everyone in his family’s operation plays in their collective commitment to promoting sustainable farming practices through use of precision land forming, flood control structures, on-farm water storage, and deployment of irrigation technology and new irrigation techniques. The Whitaker operation also was an integral part of the group that sold the first-ever voluntary carbon credits generated from U.S. rice farmers.
Jim is currently a member of the Arkansas Rice Farmers Board, the USA Rice Farmers Conservation Committee, the USA Rice Domestic Promotion Committee, and the USA Rice Sustainability Committee. He is also a graduate of the 2010 USA Rice Leadership Program and was recently appointed to the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board.
Kirby Brown was the eighth recipient of the USA Rice Distinguished Conservation Achievement Award. Brown currently is a Conservation Outreach Biologist at Ducks Unlimited (DU) but also had distinguished careers at both the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association.
Leo LaGrande, California rice farmer and chairman of the USA Rice Farmers Conservation Committee, said, “Kirby came to DU in 2012 to help address resource concerns related to water for rice agriculture, habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife, and inflows for coastal estuaries. He did so during a multi-year drought of record and in the face of rapid and unprecedented population growth. Kirby’s contributions to the rice industry’s conservation efforts have benefited natural resources and wildlife, and have also spurred growth and in turn a sense of well-being in our local, state, and national communities.”
LaGrande added, “Kirby has devoted his several careers to addressing conservation concerns with common-sense, partner-focused, win-win solutions.”