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CA Proposes First Crop-Based Program for State's Carbon Market

PHOTO: Rice growing in a field. The California Air Resources Board is considering the state's first agricultural protocol for the cap and trade program. It would allow rice farmers to generate offsets to sell in California’s carbon market, providing a new source of revenue for growers while contributing to the state’s clean-air goals. Photo credit: Matthew Grimm, Environmental Defense Fund.
PHOTO: Rice growing in a field. The California Air Resources Board is considering the state's first agricultural protocol for the cap and trade program. It would allow rice farmers to generate offsets to sell in California’s carbon market, providing a new source of revenue for growers while contributing to the state’s clean-air goals. Photo credit: Matthew Grimm, Environmental Defense Fund.
December 17, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Rice farming in California is entering a new era. The Air Resources Board is considering a proposal to allow rice farmers to generate offsets to sell in the state's cap-and-trade market.

The program will allow rice farmers to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while creating new revenue, said Robert Parkhurst, agriculture greenhouse-gas markets director for the Environmental Defense Fund.

"This is a very unique protocol," he said. "This would be the first time a crop-based protocol would be a part of California's cap-and-trade system. So, it's really significant."

Rice production is especially important to clean-air efforts because flooded rice fields produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The proposal allows farmers to voluntarily switch from wet to dry seeding; drain their fields seven to 10 days earlier; or alternate flooding and drying throughout the growing season.

Paul Buttner, manager of environmental affairs for the California Rice Commission, said the rice industry has been at the forefront of innovative farming practices, and called this an important first step.

"We've been working for many years," he said, "and we've developed many technical tools and unique approaches to address making this a reality for emissions reductions across large landscapes of agriculture."

Rice is one of California's largest crops, contributing more than $5 billion a year and 25,000 jobs to the state's economy.

Parkhurst said the protocol will allow rice farmers across the United States to generate offsets to sell in California's carbon market. It eventually may be used for other crops to help the state's agricultural producers' transition to practices that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

"A lot of what's been done in this protocol can set the stage for future protocols from agriculture," he said. "So, this could be something that could be applied to California almonds or to another California crop."

Parkhurst said the rice protocol also ensures that important wetland habitat will be maintained for wildlife and bird populations. The Air Resources Board is to meet on Thursday to consider it.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA