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July 2024

First carbon credits issued to rice farmers for methane cuts

AgriCapture helps rice farmers with the first large-scale issuance of carbon credits.

Jim Whitaker is shown with equipment monitoring the water usage on one of his rice fields near McGehee, Ark. 

A group of Midsouth rice farmers are having their cake and eating it too, so to speak, with the aid of a new company, AgriCapture, that helped them achieve the first large-scale issuance of carbon credits generated by the U.S. rice industry.

The cake, in this case, is significant water savings and premiums from sustainably grown rice. The cake is made even more palatable through the sale of CO2e credits to companies seeking to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon credits have been generated for years by corn, cotton and soybean farmers using carbon sequestration practices such as no-till. Until now, there wasn’t much opportunity for rice farmers to do likewise, according to Tyler Hull, president of AgriCapture.

Carbon credits issued

AgriCapture, which was started in 2021, recently announced receipt of carbon credits for 37,000 tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in rice. The carbon credits were issued by the Climate Action Reserve, a global carbon registry known for its rigorous issuing process under the Soil Enrichment Protocol.

Hull declined to reveal the value of the CO2e credits because AgriCapture is negotiating with other companies for additional credits for rice producers.


Tyler Hull is leading AgriCapture’s efforts to help farmers generate more revenue through sustainable practices. (AgriCapture)

“We started with the mission of bringing more value back to the farm,” he said. “One way we saw that happening was by adding value to the crop. That is, by growing it with less water and lower greenhouse gas emissions and tracking that information through the supply chain for consumers and corporations looking for sustainably produced crops, specifically rice.

“The second way was by generating carbon credits, which we’ve now done by reducing the equivalent of 37,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions thanks to climate-smart agriculture practices that lower both carbon dioxide and methane.”

The carbon credits are going to 11 farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Texas who participated in AgriCapture’s first effort to help farmers generate additional revenue. The sustainability practices, which were used on 455 rice fields, also resulted in savings of 9 billion gallons of water.

Methane has a global warming potential approximately 81 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Rice growers can suppress methane production by allowing more oxygen to reach the soil primarily through practices like alternate wetting and drying and furrow-irrigated rice.

Rice irrigation

Jim Whitaker used alternate wetting and drying to reduce methane emissions on the farm he operates with his brother, Sam, and their families in McGehee, Ark. Jim, chairman of the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, has been involved in sustainability practices for years.

“We have zero-grade ground so alternate wetting and drying works well for us,” he said. “AgriCapture was one of the first companies to bring value back to the farm so getting involved with them was a big deal to our family last year.

Whitaker was asked to participate, in part, because rice from his emission-reducing fields could be identity preserved. That allows AgriCapture to verify to potential buyers that the rice was grown sustainably.

“We were able to get involved in carbon credits, but we were also able to sell some climate-friendly rice at a premium,” he said. “That was really an even bigger moment for us, that part of the equation.”

AgriCapture acted as the middleman between Whitaker, the mill and the end user that wanted to buy identity-preserved rice. “We delivered our rice to Producers Rice Mill, and those guys were awesome to work with,” said Whitaker. “They milled the rice for the company that wanted the climate-friendly rice, and AgriCapture facilitated all of this.

“It was probably the easiest program I’ve ever been involved in because AgriCapture didn’t take title to the grain. They facilitated the identity preservation, the environmental impact and working with the buyer.”

“We didn’t take title to the grain – we’re not grain traders,” said Hull. “We capture the data on the way it’s farmed, and we work with growers who can provide on-farm storage to actually segregate rice that’s grown sustainably after harvest and deliver it to the mill.

“What we see is there’s growing demand for sustainability and water savings, greenhouse gas reductions and arsenic reductions in the rice itself. We facilitated that identity preservation and the proof of greenhouse gas and water reductions to the end buyer. But the mill still bought the rice from the farmer and sold the rice to the end buyer.”

GIS team

AgriCapture has an in-house Geographic Information System or GIS team that uses satellite imagery and other remote sensing tools to detect crop rotations, furrow-irrigated rice vs. conventionally flooded rice, rice straw burning vs. winter flooding – practices that impact greenhouse gas emissions.

“We monitor those via satellite, and we do collection of records from farmers like yield and water and fertilizer applications,” said Hull. “Once we put that information together and quantify the carbon credits, we basically get audited by a third party. They look at all of our data. They also randomly select fields to do site visits to make sure there’s a rice field there, and the grower did what we said he was doing.”

“One of the good things about AgriCapture is the more detail you’re able to provide, they have levels of payment,” said Whitaker. “It worked well for us because we’ve been keeping detailed water records. Quantifying greenhouse gas credits is important, but we also reduced a lot of water use. And water may become a bigger issue than greenhouse gas for me.”

Hull and Whitaker believe water credits could become as big as carbon credits.

“One of the things we have to ensure is that oxygen is getting to the soil because that’s suppressing methane,” said Whitaker. “But we know water savings are creating a lot of value for the environment, as well. In the same way people are buying carbon credits, you’re starting to hear talk of people buying water credits.”

Hull said the 11 rice growers who participated in last year’s program “were the early pioneers, who took the leap, enrolled in the program, changed practices, captured data and are now the first farmers to ever receive carbon credits at scale for methane reduction.

“But what that has done is raised awareness among rice farmers that this is an opportunity. In the past couple of months, we’ve had 50-plus farmers asking about our program after hearing about the success those 11 farmers had. I expect the next verification could be in the triple digits when it comes to the number of farmers participating.” QR Code

Published Date: June 28, 2024

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