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UArk Studies Profit Potential of Farming Organic Rice

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Friday, September 24, 2021   

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas produces more rice than any other state, and a new grant will help farmers explore ways to transition the industry to organic.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture has received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to research what it would take to grow organic rice domestically.

Alvaro Durand-Morat, assistant professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness at the university, said only a handful of the 100 organic rice farmers in the country are based in Arkansas. One barrier to entry is the lack of information on how the organic rice market operates.

"It is such a small market that the fact that we do not find much public information may be a result of the structure of the market," Durand-Morat explained. "And therefore, our project is trying to overcome that, and make information available to everybody that might be considering it as an opportunity in the future."

He noted the U.S. is a net importer of organic rice, despite exporting almost half of the rice crop it produces every year.

The grant also includes a multistate outreach program to share the research findings with others across the country. Durand-Morat pointed out he sees the research as a chance for rice farmers, in Arkansas and beyond, to expand their business.

"We know that organic rice sells at a very high premium," Durand-Morat observed. "There is a large pool of rice farmers that, if the conditions are right -- if the market information is available, and they can actually plan ahead -- I think there's a great potential for many farmers in Arkansas to eventually embrace organic rice."

The university is collaborating with agriculture nonprofit The Organic Center and the University of California Cooperative Extension on the grant.

This summer, the University of Arkansas also received a $1 million grant from NASA to study greenhouse gases and rice cultivation. It is estimated rice production creates 8% of human-caused methane emissions globally.


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