Of special interest to Mid-South and California rice growers will be a $1.089 million grant to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to “develop and implement a first-of-its-kind initiative to demonstrate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in rice production.”

Dave White, NRCS chief – also participating in the press conference -- said the EDF will begin rice pilot projects under California protocols before moving to the Mid-South. “They’ll have their offsets verified by three different registries and sold under” California’s AB 32 laws, which target global warming.

“Once they figure that out, they’ll try to transfer that information to rice producers in Mid-South. So, we’ll see a whole variety of things happening with models, protocols and nitrous oxide and carbon credits.”

Why start in California rice instead of the Mid-South?

“California works under a whole different world as far as a regulatory regime,” said White.“They’ll look at rice practices such as baling of rice straw, dry-seeding, overwintering of water. I think what they’ll try to do is trade a menu of options for rice producers, get that into a model and have it verified.

“In California, they will have a market. But at some point, this will help us get ready for (carbon trading) markets as they emerge across the country.”

Backing up White, Vilsack said “this is an important point: Some of these projects will key into markets already existing and provide additional ways of determining what could be effective in those existing markets. But many of these projects are better designed for us to determine how we could set markets up and what we’d be able to do effectively and efficiently to promote more successful markets. So, it’s a combination of keying into existing markets but also creating a foundation for new markets.”