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Riceland, Purina embark on partnership for sustainably grown rice

$1.5M program aims to encourage sustainable farming by Cristina LaRue | November 22, 2022 at 2:47 a.m.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/BENJAMIN KRAIN --09/19/2013-- Tractors harvest a rice field near Humnoke.

Riceland Foods Inc. and Nestle Purina PetCare are partnering on a new $1.5 million program to attract the cooperative's 5,500 members to adopt better, more sustainable farming practices.

Purina is investing $1.5 million over four years; farmers who participate would start implementing new sustainability practices in 2023, as part of the Riceland-Nestle Purina PetCare Sustainable Rice Program.

A couple of farming practices that would qualify for the program include the alternate wetting and drying irrigation practice to cut methane emissions, or using a cultivation practice called furrow irrigated rice, row rice or upland rice, to reduce water use and reduce methane emissions, Riceland Vice President of Government Affairs Kevin McGilton said.

Another innovative sustainable rice farming practice used in Arkansas originated at Isbell Farms in England -- the zero grade technique -- in which rice fields have been leveled to the point of no slope or grade to reduce water usage.

Riceland is working with Arva Intelligence on the project as part of the Riceland Carbon Ready Program; Arva will quantify carbon reductions associated with the new sustainable farming practices and provide the data for Purina to get greenhouse gas emissions credits and reduce the company's overall emissions.

Arva software will measure, monitor, record and verify collected farming data as a third party to ensure sustainable practices were implemented and determine a specific amount by which carbon was reduced on a farm.

"Whenever a farmer uses practices like these, it generates credits, and part of that is where Arva is involved in helping calculate what those credits are," McGilton said.

"Purina are a customer of Riceland Foods, so when we sell them rice that was produced in these sustainable ways, that allows Nestle Purina to claim those credits for that rice because the rice was grown with sustainable practices that lowered greenhouse gas emissions and that used less water. So when Nestle Purina buys that rice for their uses, they are able to take those credits."

McGilton said there is not currently a goal reduce greenhouse emissions by a specific amount as part of the partnership.

Nestle has its own separate plan to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Swiss conglomerate corporation Nestle bought Ralston Purina in 2001.

The program will come up with a payment rate for what a sustainable practice costs a farmer to implement on a per acre basis; some of these estimations have been calculated already in guidelines written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, McGilton said.

"We'll definitely look at a pay-for-the-practice because some of these practices, even though they are definitely great for the environment, especially for farmers who are not familiar with the practice, it could cut into their yield and they may not grow as much rice because of the practice, especially those first couple of years when they are trying the practices for the first time," McGilton said.

"So what these funds do is they help offset either the farmer's costs for implementing the practice, or maybe the risk of not producing as much rice because of the practice, but some of those details are not fully worked out. But Riceland, Nestle and Arva will be working together with our farmers to come up with those rates."

In September, the USDA announced grant funding for the Biden administration's Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative to help growers implement more environmentally conscious practices in farming.

Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods, Winrock International, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Arva Intelligence and Blue Raster partnered on a $20 million project to develop a farmer-friendly system for generating producer-owned agricultural Greenhouse Gas certificates, which are issued and tracked in a public registry.

Print Headline: Riceland, Purina start rice project


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