By Lesley Dixon, USA Rice
BATON ROUGE, LA -- The spotlight was on sustainability at this year's Cotton & Rice Conference where more than 100 speakers gave presentations on agricultural techniques, trade, and economic issues. USA Rice hosted breakout sessions on the organization's new online conservation program search platform and the recent U.S. Rice Sustainability Report, continuing to roll out the mission of sustainability across the mid-South which began at the Outlook Conference in San Diego last December.
Dr. Steve Linscombe, director of The Rice Foundation, spoke on the results and implications of the U.S. Rice Sustainability Report, funded by the Foundation and in partnership with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), that collected and analyzed 36 years of data to highlight the rice industry's outstanding accomplishments in sustainability and conservation. The presentation utilized the extensive data, evidence, and testimonials compiled by the study to showcase the ways in which U.S. rice farmers and millers have gone above and beyond in their goal of sustainability in four key areas: land use and soil conservation, water use and quality, energy use and air quality, and biodiversity.
Continuing on the momentum of the report, Josh Hankins, USA Rice director of grower relations and the Rice Stewardship Partnership, conducted a breakout session exploring USA Rice's revamped website, which features a new, innovative search tool that puts conservation programs and resources at farmers' fingertips -- whether through cost sharing, management incentives, or tax exemptions. Hankins emphasized the website's accessibility and showed conference attendees firsthand how easily they can navigate and utilize these programs to enhance their own sustainability practices.
USA Rice members also represented the industry's commitment to the sustainability cause at the conference. Arkansas farmer Jim Whitaker presented on new conservation methods such as Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) and rice water automation, and Michael Fruge, of Horizon Ag, spoke on current and potential varieties in development.
"Conservation systems were first and foremost in our minds," said Conference Chairman John LaRose, president and publisher of MidAmerica Farm Publications. "Never before in the history of this conference have so many conservation systems agricultural leaders and innovative farmers come together to share their experiences and knowledge with each other."
"The Cotton & Rice Conference is an excellent platform to shine a light on the many accomplishments the rice industry has made in sustainability and conservation, as well as to discuss the future," said Hankins. "USA Rice was honored to participate and contribute to the sustainability goals we all share."