Personal Stories: Tim Johnson and California Rice

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

Tim’s story unfolds with his entry into the rice industry back in 1996, when he assumed the role of Marketing Projects Coordinator for the California Rice Promotion Board. Tasked with promoting rice both domestically and internationally, Tim quickly found himself immersed in the intricacies of the industry. Little did he know that this role would mark the beginning of a lifetime career in California rice production and agriculture.

A pivotal moment in Tim’s career came with the formation of the California Rice Commission a few years later, where he was appointed as its first executive. This transition, as Tim fondly recalls, marked a significant milestone in his professional trajectory—a journey that began with humble beginnings, including his days working on a Frito-Lay truck right out of college.

The timing of the Commission’s formation couldn’t have been more opportune. As agriculture faced unprecedented challenges in the early 2000s, the Commission emerged as a beacon of hope, equipped with expanded capabilities to navigate regulatory and public policy landscapes. Leveraging the industry’s stellar environmental track record and a robust public outreach program, Tim and his team at the Commission spearheaded initiatives that have made a tangible difference.

Among the Commission’s most significant achievements is the expansion of its environmental portfolio. Initially focused on supporting the Pacific Flyway, the Commission’s efforts have evolved to include salmon conservation—a cause close to Tim’s heart. Through innovative water quality programs tailored for rice growers, the Commission has not only reduced regulatory burdens but also significantly slashed operational costs.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of Tim’s tenure at the Commission is the transformation of the industry’s public perception. Through sustained and creative outreach efforts, the Commission has successfully shifted the narrative surrounding rice cultivation. No longer viewed as a mere commodity, rice is now recognized as a vital component of environmental preservation and a cornerstone of rural economies.

Indeed, from the rice fields of California to nearly every piece of sushi across the nation, Tim Johnson’s impact on the industry is palpable. As we celebrate his journey, we’re reminded of the power of passion, perseverance, and purpose in shaping the world around us.

Flipping the Table Podcast

Recently, Tim had the opportunity to share his insights on the “Flipping the Table” podcast hosted by Michael Dimock, Executive Director of Roots of Change, Listen Here. From highlighting the importance of ecosystem services to emphasizing the role of rice cultivation in providing nutritious food, Tim’s expertise shines through.

A bit about the Michael Dimock, host of “Flipping the Table” Podcast: 

Michael Reid Dimock is the program director of Roots of Change at the Public Health Institute. From a leadership role in the global Slow Food Movement to leadership of winning policy campaigns, for two decades he has led catalytic work to transform thinking and laws governing our production of food and management of farms. He serves on the advisory board of the UCLA Law School’s Resnick Food Law and Policy Program as well as the nonprofit boards of Farm to Pantry and the Wild Farm Alliance. Author Katrina Fried and Photographer Paul Mobley feature Michael in their book Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing The World. His global network of allies and social media followers links 140,000 individuals and organizations.

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