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ACR Applauds ARB Adoption of Rice Cultivation Offset Protocol

SACRAMENTO - June 30, 2015 – American Carbon Registry (ACR), a nonprofit enterprise of Winrock International, applauds the California Air Resources Board (ARB) approval at the June 25 board meeting to adopt a U.S. compliance offset protocol for rice cultivation. The adoption of ARB’s first crop-based offset protocol is a critical step in encouraging emissions reductions from the agriculture sector under California’s landmark Cap-and-Trade Program. The agriculture sector presents a key opportunity to generate offsets for the California market, where greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters like power plants and oil refineries are mandated to reduce emissions. The regulation allows these entities to use ARB-approved offset credits for up to eight percent of their emissions - over 200 million metric tons through 2020.

The regulation also cites ACR’s voluntary offset methodology for Emissions Reductions in Rice Management Systems as an approved Early Action Quantification Methodology, providing an important on-ramp for rice producers in California and the Mid-South to get credit for their pioneering initiatives to reduce methane emissions through practice changes in water management, such as reduced flooding and altered drainage timing. ACR published its rice management offset methodology in 2013 after two years of development. The ACR methodology, which includes modules for both California and Mid-South rice producers, was developed and piloted under a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant by Terra Global Capital LLC in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Applied Geosolutions, LLC, the California Rice Commission, and the White River Irrigation District. 

To date, three rice cultivation offset projects in California, Arkansas, and Mississippi have been listed by ACR, totaling 21 farmers with 253 fields on 22,213 acres. ACR expects the generation of the first offset credits from these projects later this year.

We are excited about ARB’s approval of the rice cultivation offset protocol and to see projects come to market from the two leading U.S. rice growing regions – Sacramento, where ACR is based, and Winrock’s home state of Arkansas,” stated Mary Grady, ACR director of business development.

ACR has placed priority on the development, approval, and piloting of offset methodologies for the agriculture and land use sectors, given the enormous emissions reduction opportunity. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 GHG inventory, the U.S. agriculture sector is responsible for 516 million metric tons, or eight percent, of domestic GHG emissions per year. Rice cultivation is the third largest source of methane emissions in the sector, and the top two rice producing states, Arkansas and California, are responsible for over half of U.S. emissions from rice production.

Consistent with our parent Winrock’s commitment to sustainable agriculture, one of ACR’s primary objectives is to advance innovative approaches to support low emissions practices in agriculture by strengthening the scientific and market infrastructure for agricultural GHG mitigation,” said John Kadyszewski, ACR director. “We hope ARB will consider adding new protocols to allow working landowners to be paid for delivering environmental benefits from actions on their land, such as ACR-approved methodologies for Fertilizer Management, Wetland Restoration, Compost Additions to Grazed Grasslands, Grazing Land and Livestock Management, and Avoided Conversion of Grasslands.”

The Office of Administrative Law is expected to approve the Rice Cultivation offset protocol, along with other changes in the regulation, in the fall.