For the past 40 years, Earth Day has been celebrated as a way for individuals and organizations to demonstrate their commitment to the environment and sustainability. For America’s rice producers, this commitment to and respect for natural resources is an integral part of farming, and the recent results of a study on their use of environmental resources validate that. The study, commissioned by The Rice Foundation shows that U.S. rice production has become increasingly efficient on a regional and national level over the past 20 years.

The first-of-its kind analysis, U.S. Rice Resource Efficiency and Sustainability Metrics, was conducted by IHS Global Insight and examines rice production’s impact since 1987 in five key areas: land use, soil loss, water and energy use, and climate change. Among the study’s major findings:

  • 21 percent decrease in land required to produce each 100 pounds of rice and an 821,000 acre reduction in land used for production in 2009 compared to 20 years ago.
  • 43 percent decrease in soil loss since 1987.
  • 33 percent reduction in water used to produce each 100 pounds of rice, saving nearly 24 million gallons of water in 2009 versus two decades ago.
  • 52 percent reduction in energy used to produce 100 pounds of rice over the past 20 years.
  • 29 percent reduction in soil methane per 100 pounds of rice over 20 years.

“The study is an important look at the sustainability of U.S. rice production and provides a benchmark for the industry,” USA Rice Federation Sustainability Task Force Chairman Jennifer James said. James, a rice grower from Arkansas, noted the ongoing challenge for the rice industry will be to continue to produce more rice that is both sustainable and profitable for rice farmers in order to feed a growing global population.

Noting the positive contribution that rice makes to wildlife and biodiversity, the study encourages future research in this and other areas such as water management and how farm management practices influence soil emissions. The report concludes that the U.S. rice industry is moving toward meeting increasing demand while achieving lesser environmental impact.

“Farmers are great stewards of our natural resources and Earth Day is a great opportunity to emphasize the important contributions that agricultural producers make in growing the food and fiber that is necessary for our planet, while protecting our natural resources,” James said.

Eighty-five percent of the rice consumed in America is grown here. U.S. rice farmers annually produce 20 billion pounds of short-, medium-, and long-grain rice, as well as organic and specialty rice such as jasmine, basmati and arborio, in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, according to the highest-quality and wholesomeness standards. Look for the “Grown in the USA” logo on packages of domestically grown rice.

For more information on sustainability and the rice industry or to obtain a copy of the full report, visit the USA Rice Federation’s Web site at http://www.usarice.com.