WASHINGTON, DC -- On January 27, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” This Executive Order laid out the Biden Administration’s plan for addressing climate change and directed federal agencies to take certain actions to help the Administration reach their goals. Included in this order was a directive to the Secretary of Agriculture to collect stakeholder input on climate-smart strategy for both agriculture and forestry.
On March 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) opened a comment period for stakeholder input on the best use of USDA programs, funding, authority, and encouragement of voluntary conservation adoption. USA Rice responded
to this request for comments last week.
“It is important that the U.S. rice industry is at the forefront of all climate discussions,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs. “The industry has made strides over the past several decades to increase land use effectiveness, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and water use, and simultaneously create biodiverse wetland habitats. These comments were a great way to showcase all that the rice industry does for the environment and how we can help moving forward in these discussions.”
The comments from USA Rice focused on five main points, beginning with the fact that no one solution for climate concerns will be appropriate for all. Different crops, cropping systems, and growing regions all require different solutions, and that is evident in the current rice growing systems in the U.S.
The comments submitted then suggested that USDA use their fiscal year 2022 budget requests to increase spending for current conservation programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which are all working lands programs that rice farmers have been able to utilize to adopt innovative sustainable practices. USDA should also budget for technical assistance for these programs, as it will allow local National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) field offices to better serve farmers in their areas.
Next, and key to any climate solution, is that any new programs proposed must be voluntary and have no regulatory barriers. And finally, value from these programs must flow equally throughout the entire supply chain.
“Building on the past success of the U.S. rice industry, we see great opportunities ahead for further enhancing the environmental benefits U.S. rice farms can contribute to our nation and the world,” read the submission. “We welcome the opportunity to work with this Administration and Congress at large to explore opportunities and expand the role that safe, sustainable, and secure U.S. rice plays in addressing climate change.”