USA Rice and The Rice Foundation conducted their first joint, virtual press conference today to announce a new set of aggressive sustainability reduction and improvement targets for the industry that build on more than three decades of conservation accomplishments.
“I am particularly proud to represent this industry today,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward who kicked the press conference off.
“Last year, thanks to our partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, we were able to showcase our industry’s outstanding commitment to the principles of sustainability with our joint report. Today, we are unveiling the bright future of a rice industry not satisfied to rest on its laurels.”
“There is no question we have accomplished great things for sustainability and conservation on our farms,” said Charley Mathews, Jr., chair of USA Rice who joined the media event from his rice farm in Marysville, California.
“But in farming, you’re never quite done. You can always do more, always do better. And that’s what we’ve come together to announce — to challenge ourselves and our fellow farmers to do even better. I know we can do it.”
Jennifer James, a fourth-generation rice farmer from Newport, Arkansas, who serves as the chair of the USA Rice Sustainability Committee talked about her family farm, what inspires her to lead the industry forward, and then unveiled the new 2030 targets in six areas.
“Over the next 10 years the U.S. rice industry has committed to the following goals,” she explained. “To increase land use efficiency by 10 percent, to decrease soil loss by 8 percent, to decrease water use by another 13 percent, decrease greenhouse gas emissions by another 13 percent, decrease energy use by another 10 percent, and increase biodiversity on our farmland by 10 percent.”
James reminded that these targets are on top of the already impressive 36 years of reductions the industry has made, including water use reduction of 52 percent, greenhouse gas reduction of 41 percent, soil loss reduction of 29 percent, energy use reductions of 34 percent, and land use efficiency improvement of 39 percent.
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“As an industry we have a great story to tell that we can all be proud of,” James said. “We will continue working together to make the story even better and to keep telling it.”
Dr. Steve Linscombe, executive director of The Rice Foundation, explained how the goals would be tracked. “The U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report will be used as a baseline for tracking these goals,” he said.
“The data used in that report come from USDA and are tabulated in the Field to Market Indicators Report which is published every four years. In addition, the land grant universities in all six rice-producing states estimate practice adoption and have significant research on how much water, energy, and emissions are saved through the use of these practices.”
Linscombe continued: “It goes without saying that rice is farmed differently in every state, and often even within the same states. And each state and region has its own challenges and opportunities to reach these goals so our aim is to rely on aggregate data to show how our industry is working as a whole to reduce our overall numbers.”
Ward said these new goals, on top of previous accomplishments, firmly establish U.S. rice as a leading commodity.
“Environmental responsibility is top of mind for many U.S. consumers,” she said. “But not any more than it is for the men and women who grow our food and make their living off the land. Their track record shows it, and these new targets should signal to consumers that the U.S. rice industry hears them and is leading the way to a sustainable and nutritious future.”