Michael L. Cook, who has headed the Rice Growers Assn. during a critical period in the cooperative's history, will step down this fall to accept a professorship in agricultural economics at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Cook, 45, was named president and chief executive of Sacamento-based RGA in September, 1985, at a time when the 1,600-member rice-marketing organization was reeling from financial difficulty and experiencing a leadership crisis during which it lost its dominance in California's rice industry to its more aggressive neighbor, Farmers Rice Cooperative.
Under Cook, who holds a doctorate of philosophy in agricultural marketing and a master's in agricultural economics, both from the University of Wisconsin, RGA has reorganized its management and sharply cut administrative costs, while moving the cooperative from bulk sales of rice to the marketing of branded rice and rice products. RGA Chairman Larry Grell, a rice grower in Richvale, Calif., said a search is already under way for a successor "to continue the transition to become a market-oriented cooperative."
At Missouri, Cook will fill the Robert D. Partridge Chair in Cooperative Leadership, set up as a memorial to the longtime head of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn. and a strong supporter of farmer-owned companies. "There are few cooperative leaders today who are better qualified by training and experience to serve in that position," Grell said of Cook.