Seizing the Climate-Smart Opportunity

By Josh Hankins
Rice Stewardship
USA Rice

Nobody can deny that the Biden Administration has put their money where their mouth is when it comes to climate change. Most prominent among their initiatives is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. Part of our mission at USA Rice is to ensure the rice industry seizes every opportunity based on the sustainable practices you can implement — or likely already have implemented — on your farm.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative in 2022, which aimed to expand world markets for American commodities and provide tangible benefits and assistance to U.S. agriculture.

We saw this as a vital opportunity for our rice farmers, and our staff wasted no time mobilizing the sustainability troops. Our Rice Stewardship Partnership Program with Ducks Unlimited was well positioned to apply for these Climate-Smart funds, considering our historic success in delivering 13 separate Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). So, as we have done for the past 10 years, USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited worked hand in hand to achieve this goal, also building on our relationship with the National Black Growers Council in the process.

Our hard work paid off. USA Rice’s proposal was the highest scoring application of over 300 submissions and will be bringing in $80 million in Climate-Smart funding to support U.S. rice farmers. The funds will pass through USA Rice to rice producers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas, with funds split between states based on historical harvested acres.

Our rice producer leaders in each of the six states have been instrumental in the design and implementation of this initiative every step of the way, which gives us confidence that the Climate-Smart program will truly work for rice growers — voluntary, practical, self-led, and tailored to the unique needs and challenges of our industry.

Many states have already had their first sign-up opportunity, which was open to all rice producers; a second signup period, open to all rice producers that qualify as historically underserved under NRCS definitions, will be announced in the coming months.

Climate-friendly practices aren’t stepping out of the spotlight anytime soon, but fortunately, U.S. rice is way ahead of the game. The strength of our sustainability story will continue to reap benefits for the industry as long as our rice growers prioritize stewardship of the land—as they always have, and always will.

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