Trail Blazing California Rice Project Paves Way for Future Agricultural Offset Markets

March 17, 2014
Contact: 
Don Carr, (202) 572-3245, dcarr@edf.org

(San Francisco, CA) – Today the American Carbon Registry (ACR) listed a first-of-its-kind project aimed at rewarding rice growers for voluntarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Emission Reductions in California Rice Management Systems project is the first aggregated agriculture project in the U.S. covering key rice growing areas in the Sutter, Colusa, and Glenn Counties of California’s Sacramento Valley. Participating farmers implement voluntary management practices on their fields to reduce methane emissions and will generate carbon offset credits.

Once independently verified under the ACR carbon accounting methodology Voluntary Emissions Reductions in Rice Management Systems, this project will reward farmers for positive environmental outcomes by generating carbon offset credits which they can sell on the voluntary, and eventually the compliance, market.

This initial project covers 5,000 acres and paves the way for broader adoption in California and the Mid-South. It is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6,700 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 e), which equates to taking about 1,400 cars off the road for a year. With the listing of this project, we expect other rice producers to participate in both California and the Mid-South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas). Experience from this project will also help spur the implementation of projects using other agriculture offset protocols including fertilizer optimization and rangeland management, which are being piloted by EDF and its partners with generous support from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“This voluntary emission reduction project is precisely the type of innovation we need to combat climate change,” said Robert Parkhurst, Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Markets Director for the Environmental Defense Fund. “It paves the way for future agriculture offset protocols and underscores the amazing potential of agriculture as a climate solution.”

“This project shows that through good collaboration and innovation, conservation truly can generate a win-win.  In this case, California rice growers can maintain their yields of food production while also voluntarily providing other benefits for their neighbors and communities, such as reducing and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jason Weller, NRCS Chief. “This groundbreaking partnership is blazing a trail for rice growers throughout the country to benefit from the power of ecosystem service markets to diversify their on-farm income.”

The ACR carbon accounting protocol under which this project is listed is one of the voluntary protocols the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is using to develop a compliance offset protocol. The Rice Cultivation Projects Compliance Offset Protocol is expected to be considered by the Board at its September meeting. Once adopted, this protocol will allow both California and Mid-South rice growers to adopt practice changes to reduce their GHG emissions and sell those reductions as carbon offset credits to regulated California companies for compliance under California’s cap-and-trade program.

Terra Global Capital, LLC, an agricultural offset project developer, has been working with Environmental Defense Fund, the California Rice Commission and White River Irrigation District with funding support from a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant and private funders, to develop the rigorous protocols and promote these ground-breaking initial projects for U.S. agricultural producers. “The listing of this rice project is the first step in building a robust pipeline of agricultural offsets for voluntary and future compliance programs by promoting and rewarding farmers for the production of environmental assets,” said Leslie Durschinger, Founder and Managing Director of Terra Global.  

“We commend this partnership between the rice industry and EDF. It’s a great example of the multiple benefits that come from well-managed farmland,” said Amrith Gunasekara, Science Advisor for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “This is the type of work we are working to recognize and encourage through CDFA’s Environmental Farming Science Advisory Panel, which reviews and documents agriculture’s positive environmental impacts and provides recommendations for assessing and promoting beneficial practices.”

”California rice growers have a long history of environmental leadership,” said Paul Buttner, Manager of Environmental Affairs at the California Rice Commission. “We are pleased to have assisted in the development of technical tools useful to other agricultural commodity groups that may also be interested in protocol development. We are hopeful that this rice protocol will successfully encourage our growers to participate in more projects. We greatly appreciate the funding provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to enable this project to ultimately be realized.”

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