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Riceland Foods: 50 Years Ago

March 21, 2023 is National Ag Day. The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) started celebrating National Ag Day in 1973, 50 years ago, to bring awareness to all things agriculture, food and fiber across communities around the U.S. 

With over 100 years of history, Riceland has long celebrated its agricultural heritage in the communities it serves across Arkansas and Missouri. Our mission is to help farmers feed the world, sustainably.  One way we look forward to our future is by looking back on where we’ve come from.  

In celebration of 50 years of National Ag Day, let’s take a walk down memory lane to see what the cooperative was doing in the 1970s.

Originally founded as the Arkansas Rice Growers Cooperative Association in 1921, the Board of Directors and management team changed the public-facing name of the cooperative to Riceland Foods, Inc in 1970. The new headquarters building opened in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and the cooperative we know today made its mark on investing in other industries to increase the value of being a member of the cooperative.  

“No longer were rice growers its only members; in fact, its 20,000 soybean grower-members outnumbered rice growers four to one. Nor were the members merely growers of crops, for through their cooperative, they have become innovative manufacturers of processed foods, feedstuffs, and industrial products.”ii  

By 1970, Riceland had grown its association of farmer members into an organization made up of 22 drier divisions, each operating as its own division with its own board of directors, and three processing facilities. The cooperative’s membership was on the rise due to superior service and returns.  

“Riceland paid its members an average of 40 cents more for each hundredweight (CWT) of rice it marketed during the past three decades than the average price received by all U.S. rice growers. Similarly, soybean grower-members received an average of 35 cents more for each bushel marketed through Riceland Foods than all U.S. growers received on average for the past decade.” iii

The cooperative’s sales had risen over a hundredfold from $5 million in the mid-1940s to more than $563 million in the 1970s.iv The Riceland Board of Directors was led by chairman Bill E. Jones and vice chairman Romeo Short, Jr., and the management team was made up of seven individuals representing various leadership roles across the cooperative.  

The 1970s Management Team

  • L.C. Carter – President & CEO
  • Leland L. Carle – Vice President - Finance
  • Wilfred F. Carle – General Manager and Director of Marketing
  • W.L. Knoll – General Sales Manager – Rice Division
  • R.R. Rawlings – Vice President – Field Services
  • F.M. Bloomberg – General Superintendent - Production
  • James L. Mason – Vice President - Administration
  • C. Clark Smith – Executive Vice President

Riceland Foods was a major contributor to the agricultural industry when National Ag Day was founded in 1973. In 2022, Riceland reported $1.2 billion in revenue at its annual membership meeting.  Our cooperative is still going strong in 2023, and our mission of helping farmers feed the world sustainably is something we strive to achieve every day.  

Riceland Historical Information: 

iii J. David Morrissy, Riceland Foods: Innovative Cooperative in the International Market, (1975), 3.

iv Morrissy, 3.

v Morrissy, 5.