Field to Market Helps Tell the Rice Story

Rice farmer Jennifer James stands in rice field in front of tractor, smiling, brown hair blowing in the wind, wearing blue & white plaid shirt
Go here to see Jennifer James talk about her commitment to sustainability
Sep 06, 2018
Special to the USA Rice Daily
NEWPORT, AR -- When I began my journey as chair of USA Rice Sustainability Committee almost 10 years ago many believed this new buzz word - sustainability - would blow over.  As millennials have emerged as drivers of purchasing, taste, and preferences in food, the sustainability buzz has grown louder.  That is why it is so important USA Rice has continued to be an active participant in Field to Market (FTM) and the development of the Fieldprint Calculator.    

In 2010 when USA Rice joined FTM, I had the opportunity to attend the general sessions or plenary meetings, and also committee meetings.  The group was relatively small at that time and just getting off the ground.  It was the only sustainable ag movement that fully included growers, and as a rice farmer, this was very important to me.  Although the group has grown tremendously over the past years, growers remain a vital part of the membership.   Rice has also grown its presence at the meetings with new members and formed partnerships with other FTM members.

Through my FTM participation, I have been fortunate to interact with many of the sustainable teams of rice end users and conservation groups interested in keeping our industry thriving.  It was refreshing to learn that other segments of our industry welcomed, and in fact sought out, grower input.  Telling the story of rice sustainability is easier with partners and the verification found in the FTM Fieldprint Calculator, a confidential online tool where farmers voluntarily provide production data that’s used to measure their crop’s environmental impact and then identify opportunities for continuous improvement.  
It was a challenge to integrate a flooded crop into the upland model of the original Fieldprint Calculator.  Many in the industry have worked tirelessly to help FTM develop and improve upon the first model.  

“Because U.S. rice is grown under flooded conditions, the original calculator required significant modifications to make it functional under U.S. growing conditions,” said Steve Linscombe, now with USA Rice but who worked on this project in his former role as director of rice research at the Louisiana State University AgCenter.  “An example here is methane production in rice systems.  Because rice is grown under flood conditions, it produces more methane than non-irrigated crops.  It took a major effort by rice researchers from several states to provide quality data to refine this metric and make it much more accurate than that which was originally in the rice calculator.”

A robust set of data on key metrics like water use and greenhouse gas emissions empowers farmers to tell their own sustainability story.  In aggregate, the data can provide our industry with compelling facts that matter to consumers that will keep U.S. rice in high demand.  

One of the best routes to improving the FTM tool we have is through feedback from rice growers who have worked with the Fieldprint Calculator so I would encourage you to take a look at the online tool and let us know what you think.