Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Monday 03/17/14

Carbon Offset Program Announced for Rice Growers

Environmental Defense Fund announced Monday that the American Carbon Registry has approved a project to create carbon credits for California Rice Growers.

EDF, the California Rice Commission and other groups have been using a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant to develop a rice protocol that would pay farmers for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The initial project in California focuses on 5,000 acres to help reduce methane emissions that would translate into the equivalent of about 6,700 tons of carbon dioxide. It's a small project in the grand scheme of things, but the project potentially opens the door for other rice producers to participate not only in California, but also in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, according to the carbon registry. That translates into as many as 3.4 million possible acres for enrollment.

While approval by the American Carbon Registry is nice, the potential goal is to then see the rice protocol and any offset program integrated into the California Air Resources Board's carbon offset program.

"It's a multi-step process, but yes, the intention is these credits end up being used in California's cap-and-trade system," said Robert Parkhurst, director of EDF's agriculture greenhouse gas markets program.

CARB is now developing offset criteria for rice and held a discussion Monday on the first draft of a possible protocol. Potentially, a CARB protocol could be approved and go into effect next January. If that happens, then the pilot program could see any approved acres converted into offsets for CARB.

As part of its protocol, CARB has a series of practices and procedures growers would need farmers to follow to receive the credits. For instance, CARB wants producers in California to switch from wet seeding rice to dry seeding as well as draining the field early to prepare for harvest. In the South, CARB wants to see alternating wet and dry during the growing season while also draining the field before harvest.

The California Air Resources Board is going gangbusters with "early action offset projects" --- effectively projects that groups, businesses and government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service have developed. The Air Resources Board, in a presentation on Monday, stated there are 81 such early action projects. Of those, 25 projects have generated 4.7 million tons of carbon-offset credits.

Last fall, several group announced a rangelands carbon market in North Dakota involving up to 50,000 acres of rangeland that was approved by the American Carbon Registry.

Parkhurst said EDF and some partners are also working on a project to create an offset program focusing on reducing fertilizer usage.

A news release on the rice projects by Environmental Defense Fund: http://dld.bz/…

A Powerpoint presentation on California's rice protocol: http://dld.bz/…

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 4:49PM CDT 03/17/14 by Chris Clayton
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