U.S. rice industry announces 2030 sustainability targets

Betsy Ward

By Betsy Ward
President and CEO
USA Rice

This is an exciting time to grow rice in the United States. Advances in technology and innovative practices have revolutionized the industry and made us one of the most sustainable crops in the world. Over the past 30 years, we’ve seen significant decreases in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, groundbreaking efforts to support conservation and reduction of water use by over half.

This was no small feat. Our farmers and millers achieved these impressive sustainability metrics by working together as an industry and acting as stewards of their land, their communities and the environment.

As much as we have accomplished, there is always more work to be done when it comes to sustainability in agriculture, and U.S. rice farmers are continually rising to that challenge. I’m very proud that our industry has recently announced new sustainability targets to carry U.S.-grown rice forward.

2030 sustainability goals

As we look toward the future, the U.S. rice industry has committed to achieve the following goals by 2030:

■ Increase land-use efficiency by 10%.

■ Decrease soil loss by 8%.

■ Decrease water use by 13%.

■ Decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 13%.

■ Decrease energy use by 10%.

■ Increase biodiversity by 10%.

The U.S. Rice Industry Sustainability Report will be instrumental in tracking these goals. Using data accumulated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and tabulated in the Field to Market Indicators Report every four years, it will act as a baseline for tracking progress and quantitatively measuring success. The industry’s effort also will be helped by significant research on sustainability practices by land-grant universities in all six rice-producing states.

Working as a whole

waterfowl, chambers county, texas

Waterfowl use flooded rice fields in Chambers County, Texas, for feeding, resting and roosting — photo courtesy NRCS

It goes without saying that rice is farmed differently in every state and often even within the same state. 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. We have a great story to tell, so we’ll keep telling it together.

It’s an ambitious plan, but our rice farmers have already proven they are up to the task. No one is forcing the U.S. rice industry to dedicate so much time and effort to sustainability and conservation. We do it because it is smart; it is efficient; and it supports the land, the ecosystem, the community and the economy.

Rather than satisfy ourselves with the great strides we’ve already made, we are continuing to innovate and challenge ourselves.

I know we can reach these goals together, and I am as excited about what we will accomplish in the future as I am proud of what we have achieved in the past.