California proposes first crop-based program for state’s carbon market

Rice protocol will help state achieve clean air goals while rewarding farmers with a new revenue source

October 28, 2014
Julie Benson, 415-293-6069, jbenson@edf.org

(SACRAMENTO—October 28, 2014) The California Air Resources Board (CARB) today released draft standards and opened a 45-day comment period on its proposal to allow U.S. rice farmers to generate offsets to sell in the state’s cap-and-trade market. The Rice Cultivation Projects Compliance Offsets Protocol will provide financial benefits for growers while advancing the state’s goal of achieving its emissions reduction targets by 2020. Rice production is particularly important to California’s clean air efforts because it is a major contributor of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

“As the state’s first crop-based protocol, the rice program is a model for a whole new generation of offsets from the agricultural sector, a major driver of our economy, especially in California,” said Robert Parkhurst, Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Markets Director for the Environmental Defense Fund. “The rice industry is once again setting the stage for programs that give other growers the opportunity to reap financial benefits while helping the environment.”

The voluntary program offers rice farmers three different options to implement environmentally friendly practices on their fields; dry seeding, the practice of sowing dry seed on the ground rather than applying pre-germinated seeds aerially; early drainage, in which farmers drain their fields seven to 10 days earlier than usual; or alternate wetting and drying, the practice of periodically flooding and then drying down a field throughout the growing season.

“The rice industry has long been at the forefront of innovative farming practices that promote stewardship and sustainability,” said Paul Buttner, Environmental Affairs Manager for the California Rice Commission. “By including a voluntary rice protocol in California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction program, the state is taking an important next step in preserving the industry’s legacy of commitment to protecting our environment, including enabling us to identify where we can achieve reductions while avoiding other unintended impacts to the millions of water birds now so dependent upon California rice lands for habitat.

The rice program is unique from other protocols in the cap-and-trade system in that the emissions reductions come from changes to farming practices and are dependent on weather and the grower’s management decisions. And, unlike some other sectors, emissions reductions from rice are permanent and will never again be re-released into the atmosphere.

Read more about the rice protocol and its practices at EDF’s webpage.

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