A nine-member University of California Cooperative Extension team won the annual Circle of Life award from the California Rice Commission for two decades of dedication, commitment and accomplishments to the rice industry.

The Commission annually recognizes a “partner that exemplifies the values of our industry, and we honor them with our Circle of Life award,” said Tim Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Commission. The team received the award at the eighth annual Circle of Life presentation, held in Sacramento.

“When we look back at what has made rice the environmental commodity, we see one partner with us for over 20 years — the UC Cooperative Extension,” Johnson told the crowd. “They are there with us in our fields and at our research station. They make us be better farmers. They help us be better stewards of the resources we all share.”

The team includes three UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) specialists based at UC Davis; five UCCE farm advisors; and Daniel Dooley, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The UC Davis contingent is comprised of Larry Godfrey, Department of Entomology; James Hill, Department of Plant Sciences; and James Thompson, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. The farm advisors honored: Christopher Greer and Glenn Nader, Sutter-Yuba counties; Randall “Cass” Mutters, Butte County; Luis Espino, Colusa County; and Mick Canaveri (and UCCE county director), San Joaquin County.

Each received a framed and signed Giclée print of “Fields of Inspiration,” art work based on an original vase created by Chico glassblower Richard Satava. Johnson praised their accomplishments. “They helped us create the first surface water monitoring and management program, one that has reduced the amount of rice herbicides in the Sacramento River by over 99 percent,” Johnson said. “They helped us find solutions to manage our rice straw that have led to the creation of 300,000 acres of flood ricelands to support the fall waterfowl migration. And, in the future, we will be announcing a partnership on water conservation.

The rice industry is traditionally among the state's top 20 most valuable crops. Annual acreage typically exceeds 500,000, with more than 4 billion pounds of rice produced each year, according to Jim Morris, communications manager of the California Rice Commission. California is second only to Arkansas in rice production in the United States.