Rice at Forefront of Senate Climate Hearing

    Rice field. Photo: Horizon Ag

    This morning, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing on “Farmers and Foresters: Opportunities to Lead in Tackling Climate Change.” The committee heard testimony and recommendations from a variety of witnesses on sustainability practices, climate mitigation efforts, and more.

    Mark Isbell, a fourth generation Arkansas rice farmer, Rice Leadership Program graduate, and active member of USA Rice, testified virtually representing the U.S. rice industry.

    Other hearing witnesses included Clay Pope, National Farmers Union; Stefanie Smallhouse, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation; Cori Wittman Stitt, Environmental Defense Fund; and John Reifsteck, National Council of Farmers Cooperatives.

    Isbell’s testimony focused on the substantial economic and environmental benefits of the U.S. rice industry, such as the conservation practices used by rice farmers that are continuing to advance and evolve with the use of less water and energy; the improvement of water quality, air quality, and soil conservation; and the continual enhancement of wildlife habitats to support biodiversity. Isbell also emphasized the need for climate solutions to be voluntary, as not all solutions will be viable for all crops and regions.

    “During my lifetime, rice farmers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 41 percent, cut water use in half, and decreased energy use by 34 percent,” said Isbell. “U.S. rice farms also enhance water quality, create an estimated $3.5 billion dollars in essential habitat for migratory waterfowl, habitat for baby salmon, and a host of other environmental co-benefits.”

    During the hearing, Isbell touched on the progress that rice had made in the area of sustainability over the years, using his family farm as an example.

    “On my family’s rice farm in Arkansas, while working with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Arkansas, we have adopted strategies to decrease methane emissions by over 60 percent.”

    The U.S. rice industry has committed to reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and water use by an additional 13 percent and soil loss by 8 percent by 2030. In addition, the industry seeks to increase biodiversity and habitat development by another 10 percent while reducing energy use an additional 10 percent.

    In closing, Isbell stated, “With a studied, nuanced, and inclusive approach, this committee can play a role in unleashing the enduring creativity of American agriculture to attenuate climate change. If the Senate intends to address climate change, agriculture is a proven, sound investment. But farmers of America must have a voice in shaping this policy, and careful attention to detail must be taken.”

    Go here to watch the archived webcast of the hearing.

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