Growing rice requires flooding fields, which produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
The California Air Resources Board is discussing allowing growers to obtain greenhouse gas “offsets” that could then be sold on the state’s cap and trade market. Offsets are a reduction in emissions that compensate or “offset” emissions made elsewhere.
Growers would have to drain flooded fields earlier or seed rice in drier soil.
“We do have at this point a dozen farmers who have indicated interest and we’re going to start working with those farmers," says Paul Buttner with the California Rice Commission. "Certainly their experience and how they describe their experience with other farmers we hope will spawn interest in this program.”
Buttner says offsets provide only a small economic incentive, amounting to about $5 an acre. He says rice farming is a small portion of statewide greenhouse gases emissions.
“We wanted to find that sweet spot where we could bring to the Air Resources Board a voluntary program where we could be somehow part of the solution to climate change,” says Buttner.
The Air Resources Board could vote as early as next spring on the program.