Accounting for 20% of the global population’s caloric intake, rice is one of the worlds’ most strategic and politically sensitive commodities.
U.S. rice producers are global leaders in sustainable production methods, already adhering to strict environmental, health, safety and labor regulations and demonstrating the impacts of practices and technologies to significantly reduce water use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fertilizer use and fuel use. However, these now proven sustainability practices are not without additional cost and risk and require market-based solutions to increase adoption.
In 2017, a group of seven famers from the Mid-South and California were the first in the world to be issued verified carbon offset credits from reduced GHG emissions in rice cultivation. They implemented a variety of groundbreaking voluntary conservation practices that included alternate wetting and drying (AWD) and early drainage of their fields as well as crop residue management. These practices also resulted in reduced energy consumption and the reduced use of millions of gallons of water, a critical resource in both regions.
Based on these results, U.S. rice farmers are seeking recognition for their environmental stewardship and natural resource conservation results through participation in a voluntary sustainability standard and certification. This is a key focus of a USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant awarded to partners to pilot a U.S. sustainable rice initiative.