Rice growers who grow their crop using specific practices that do not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are now able to earn income from companies that need to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Cap-and-Trade Program has been in effect for other agricultural crop producers, but the California Air Resources board recently approved the rice growers being included with specific approved production practices The California approval results in the program being potentially available for use by rice growers across the nation.

Specific approved methods of rice production that pertain to dry seeding, drainage practices and handling of rice straw have been established for participating in the carbon credit market, as it is normally referred to.  

Josh Hankins with USA Rice explained that growers in the Mid-South have to “practice alternate wetting and drying (also referred to as intermittent flooding) or anticipate implementing alternate wetting and drying (AWD) in 2016.”

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board notes, “In California, growers can receive credit through practices such as dry seeding and early drainage of fields in preparation for harvest. These growing practices allow for continued use of flooded fields as winter bird habitat, but reduce the amount of rice straw left to decompose in the water (decomposition produces gases).”

Helping farmers implement the necessary practices for the carbon credit program appears to be a fit for crop consultants and ag retailers to assist farmers.

Growers receive a credit for each metric ton of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere, and the verified credits can be sold to companies regulated by the cap-and-trade program, which keeps the companies from being subjected to regulatory punishment for excessive greenhouse gas pollution. What a farmer receives per credit fluctuates and can be based on demand.

As noted by, Hankins, “Before that credit is sold, it must be verified by a third party, and that verification process comes with a cost.” He suggested Mid-South growers might contact Dennis Carmon with White River Irrigation District in Hazen, Ark., about verification—at e-mail dcarmanpllc@comcast.net.

“Carbon credit markets are largely untested in the United States,” Hankins said, “but the theory is growing in popularity as more companies seek ways of reducing their ‘carbon footprint’ to appease consumers. Given the strong environmental record of the agriculture industry, especially rice, they are a likely candidate to provide viable credits.”