Jim Hill was raised in Sutter, California, and earned B.S. degrees in Crop Science and Biochemistry at California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. degree at UC Davis in plant physiology and joined the University of California Cooperative Extension as a Specialist in weed science and later, agronomy. For most of his career he has worked with the California rice industry as well as internationally on increasing rice productivity through improved cultural and pest management practices. In California he and his UC colleagues conducted research and education programs to solve issues of environmental stewardship related to water quality and straw management in rice production.
In the mid-90s Hill served five years as the Chair of the Department of Agronomy and Range Science. From 1999-2002 he joined the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines where he served as Program Leader for Irrigated Rice and Head of the Division of Crop, Soil and Water Sciences. He worked extensively with national research and extension programs throughout Asia. In 2002 he returned to UC Davis and in 2005 was appointed Associate Dean for International Programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Hill has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific journal and proceeding papers and nearly 200 extension education articles. He has been Chair of the USA Rice Technical Working Group and the International Temperate Rice Conference. He has received numerous awards including the James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award at UC Davis, the national Professional/Technical Award from Ducks Unlimited for his work on winter flooding of rice for waterfowl habitat, the Research and Education Award from the USA Rice Technical Working Group and more recently the California Rice Industry Achievement Award. Hill is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America.