Environmental Defense Fund, in partnership with Winrock International, the California Rice Commission and the leading Arkansas rice industry associations and producers, will receive a $1.1 million USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to demonstrate best practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from rice production in Arkansas and California.

Growers in Arkansas, the largest rice producing state, planted nearly 1.8 million acres in 2010 and growers in California, the second largest rice producing state, planted more than 550,000 acres. Working in these two states provides an opportunity to quantify methane emissions reductions as carbon offsets.

“This groundbreaking project is a great economic opportunity for rice farmers who already help feed the world,” said David Festa, vice president of both West Coast operations and the Land, Water and Wildlife programs for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “It will enable rice farmers to diversify their portfolio, so they can get paid—as they should be—for helping stabilize the world's climate.”

EDF, the California Rice Commission, Applied Geosolutions, LLC, and TerraGlobal Capital, LLC, recently developed the first U.S. methodology to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions from rice production in California without negatively affecting yields.  The GHG methodology is a framework for developing offset projects to sell credits on voluntary and compliance GHG markets.  Removal of rice straw after harvest provides the largest mitigation opportunity to reduce emissions of methane, which has over 20 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide. The methodology currently is under review by the American Carbon Registry (ACR) and the Verified Carbon Standard.

“Winrock is excited to partner with EDF and Arkansas rice producers on this important initiative,” said Annett Pagan, Winrock director, U.S. Programs. “Rice producers in Arkansas strive to improve yields, increase competitiveness and enhance habitat, particularly for waterfowl. It’s a win-win if producers can do all those things and also reduce GHG emissions. The CIG project will provide the needed on-the-ground demonstrations to prove this can be done practically and cost-effectively and that the revenue potential is real.”