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Innovative Project Curbs Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Mid-South Rice Fields

Posted by Ciji Taylor, Public Affairs Specialist on May 19, 2016 at 02:26 PM
Monitoring equipment in the rice fields measure gases.

Monitoring equipment in the rice fields measure gases.

Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like carbon credits, water quality benefits and wildlife habitat—is an emerging market opportunity that has seen success in California, Michigan and the prairie pothole region of North Dakota.

The process for generating carbon credits from water and nitrogen management on rice fields provides rice growers with small incentives to voluntarily make management changes that reduce methane and nitrous oxide; both are potent greenhouse gases.  

Thanks to a new Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project, rice growers in the Mid-south region will have new opportunities to implement conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while marketing their climate-smart rice under a unique label.  

The project, The Establishment of a Mid-South Environmental Stewardship Marketing Cooperative, works with rice growers in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Louisiana to develop a program that will bring carbon credit marketing to rice growers in the region.

Through the implementation of voluntary conservation known as alternate wetting and drying, rice growers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, total water usage and energy consumption by reducing the amount of water that is being pumped. These greenhouse gas reductions are quantified and made available to the voluntary and compliance carbon markets as carbon credits. The carbon credits can then be purchased by emitting entities to help reduce their carbon footprint and take actions to mitigate global climate change.

CIG, administered through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), provides the growers with the support necessary to form a cooperative and develop a new verification, labeling and marketing strategy for the rice that is grown with a smaller environmental footprint.

“We are seeing market forces at work. These Mid-South rice growers have identified a unique opportunity to voluntarily implement conservation and get recognition within the marketplace,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “Environmental markets and financial markets are beginning to provide premium payments for products with a smaller environmental footprint, the Mid-South rice growers recognize this opportunity and plan to capitalize on the opportunity.”

“We believe conservation efforts are a valuable commodity that should be recognized by the public, and growers that are exceeding the established norm should be recognized and rewarded for their conservation ethic that benefits all of us,” said Dennis K. Carman, P.E. with the White River Irrigation District and leader of this CIG project.

NRCS is investing $927,000 to help develop these new conservation methods, while partners, such as Winrock International and the Environmental Defense Fund, are matching the funds bringing the total project investment to a nearly $2 million total.

As a Federal leader, NRCS supports the development of environmental markets, largely through its CIG program. In 2015, approximately half of the CIG funding supported environmental markets projects in three categories: water quality trading, greenhouse gas markets and impact investments in working lands conservation. 

“CIG is a very important program that helps share the risk for new concepts, new ideas and new approaches to conservation,” Carman said. “Without CIG, this project could not exist.”

Irrigation by poly-pipe to a rice field.

Tags: Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, greenhouse gas

categories Science & Technology

1 response(s) to "Innovative Project Curbs Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Mid-South Rice Fields"

Lary Guillot says:

The beginning of a new Era is here, finally. Love the concept of solar panels in the field. But i think there needs to be a more applicable transition to collect and deposit solar energy for powering water and other supplies to the fields. Something definitely more durable and aesthetic. And would appreciate a more thorough explanation of how this all works to Environmental concerns other than scientific terms.

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