Sustainability: A job we take seriously

Betsy Ward

By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

By now, it cannot be doubted that the U.S. rice industry leads the way when it comes to sustainability in agriculture. Whether it’s providing essential wildlife habitat, conserving water and soil, or technical innovations that use less energy and decrease emissions, rice farmers and millers have made enormous strides in the past 30 years and continue to dedicate themselves to the cause every day.

The reason for this is simple. Rice farmers take this aspect of the job seriously because they not only live off the land, they live on it. They have a vested interest in caring for the place where they live and work so it can be passed down to their children and grandchildren, and they can continue to provide food security to Americans for generations to come.

As stewards of the acres they farm and cornerstones of the rural economies in which they operate, rice farmers and millers give back all they can to the land and the community.

But what does sustainability truly mean? It’s been a popular term to throw around for years, but it must be quantified and measured.

We want consumers and policymakers alike to recognize the rice industry’s monumental efforts in sustainability, and for that we need evidence, data and empirical proof that tells a cohesive story.

Telling the story just got easier

The Rice Foundation, in partnership with the National Resources Conservation Service, initiated the U.S. Rice Sustainability [adinserter block=”1″]Report in late 2017 to collect and showcase the rice industry’s outstanding accomplishments over the past 36 years. It is the first of its kind for our industry, and it will be an invaluable resource for years to come as we continue our ever-evolving mission of sustainability through advocacy, research and farmer outreach.

The report is based on four key environmental markers—land use and soil conservation, water use and quality, energy use and air quality, and biodiversity. It provides an incredible amount of data, evidence and testimonials from university research centers, government and state agencies, and of course, those working within the rice industry itself, to prove how rice is a leader in environmental, economic and social sustainability.

A quick read

usa rice sustainability reportAn executive summary of the report is currently available, and I believe it is an essential tool in spreading the word about rice’s sustainability practices. It’s four pages and easy to digest—especially for those who may not be familiar with the ins and outs of the rice business. It also focuses on the highlights of the report and provides a thorough rundown of the most important points.

But I strongly encourage you to explore the entirety of the report itself, because there is just so much useful information in it that a four-page summary could not possibly capture. The full report will be available soon on the USA Rice website.

So many people have worked hard on this project, and I couldn’t be prouder of the result.

This landmark document is a crucial resource that will aid and guide us for many years to come as we continue the journey of sustainability.