Today, December 18, 2020, marks the 23rd anniversary of the founding of the US Rice Producers Association. Today it’s impossible to not think of Mr. Jack Wendt, a Texas rice farmer and former President of the US Rice Council that was based in Houston, Texas, and a man who traveled the world promoting U.S. grown rice. He also made his share of trips to Washington, D.C. to remind Capitol Hill of the contribution made by rice farmers to our national food security in his genuine effort to feed the world.
While Jack grew more than 60 rice crops, he was an original member of the USRPA board of directors. Respected and known by everyone in the U.S. rice industry, Mr. Wendt played an instrumental role in the development of those original by-laws dated December 18, 1997. The same principals installed by Jack in 1997 ring true today- an organization comprised of producers, elected by producers, and representing rice producers in all rice-producing states.
The new rice association was told at the time the effort would never materialize, considered a group of “rebel farmers” who will not last. Someone forgot to tell folks like Mr. Wendt, Raymond Franz, Hal Koop, Sonny Martin, Penn Owen and Rex Morgan apparently. These gentlemen stood by their principals and always spoke as if 1,000 rice farmers were listening over their shoulders. Just like Ray Stoesser!
Over the years change became inevitable and while the USRPA developed unique relationships with the most important markets and the buyers for long-grain rice, it is satisfying to know that these men had so much to do with our current day leadership in the US rice industry.
Comments written last month by the leadership of the USA Rice Federation apparently confirm what these men knew all along.
“All of those issues are long gone and most of the people involved are not around anymore.”
“The leadership on the USA Rice board & committees has changed and the attitude and philosophy has changed.”
“That might have been the case 20 years ago and now is far from the truth.”
Looking back over the past 23 years, this has to be the biggest accomplishment of the USRPA- raising awareness and creating change for the better.
Congratulations to all of you who have been involved in this process and continue to represent rice farmers. 2021 will bring new challenges but like has been the case for the past 23 years, they will be met. After all 2020 has taught us that farmers are officially “essential.”