STUTTGART – July 25 wasn’t a typical day in the office for Dan Berkovitz, a commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who traded a desk in Washington for a morning among green rows and blue skies at the Rice Research and Extension Center.

Berkovitz was in Arkansas as part of a multiweek tour around the country to learn about agricultural commodities. Arkansas is the nation’s No. 1 rice producer, growing about half of the rice in the United States. Rice production in Arkansas in 2016 was valued a just under $1 billion, according to a news release.

His visit to the rice station was coordinated by Matt King, director of public affairs and government relations with Arkansas Farm Bureau.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s mission is to foster open, transparent, competitive, and financially sound markets while protecting market users and their funds, from fraud and abusive practices in protects subject to the Commodity Exchange Act. In the universe of commodities the commission covers, Berkovitz wanted to know more about ag commodities.

At Stuttgart, he met with various faculty and staff from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, each with information on an aspect of rice production from breeding to harvest.

“A real backbone of our country is agriculture,” Berkovitz said. “It’s really fantastic to learn about all the exciting things going on here in Arkansas and elsewhere.”

“I learned all about the research that’s going on here and the challenges and how you’re trying to address those,” he said. It’s “fascinating all the things I didn’t know by just eating rice – what goes into it and the science behind a lot of it.”

His two-hour visit to Stuttgart included getting a rice production overview from Bob Scott, center director. Professor Xueyan Sha offered an introduction into the long- and medium grains, hybrids and in what products rice is used, such as beer and cereals. Sha also gave a comprehensive look at the varieties being bred at the station.

Nathan Slaton, assistant director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, discussed challenges and advances in fertility and soil science and the high efficiencies that have been achieved through research in rice production.

Scott Stiles, extension economist, talked about some of the quality issues faced by producers in 2018 and what actions were taken to address sampling.

Mike Hamilton, extension irrigation instructor, discussed the water resource challenges faced by Arkansas farmers and how multiple inlet rice irrigation and row rice are being used to achieve more efficient water use.

“We’re pleased to be part of the commissioner’s agricultural learning road trip,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System and head of the Division of Agriculture. “The work being done at this center is important to improving the value and marketability of domestically produced rice. We are proud of the world class scientists that we have working in rice research.”

To learn more about rice research and breeding, visit The Rice Research and Extension Center is part of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.

— Mary Hightower is director of Communication Services at the U of A System Division of Agriculture.