Arkansas: Rice, rice, baby!

Rice is a staple food for half of the global population, and nearly half of America’s national supply of rice is grown on 2,300 family farms in one state: Arkansas. This week, Jay investigates the environmental concerns and considerations that go into growing, milling, and consuming rice, which, as a major world crop, is also a major contributor to global warming.

As home to several major food corporations, nearly every food in the grocery aisle ties back to Arkansas in some way, shape, or form. One common denominator: rice. As both a staple food and a key ingredient in a multitude of processed foods, the state’s cash crop is grown not on major industrial farming operations, but on 2,300 individually-owned family farms that have been passed down from generation to generation. However, as clean as a bowl of rice may sound, it packs a dirty little secret: methane emissions.

In order to assess just how green rice farming truly is, Jay speaks with fourth-generation rice farmer Jennifer James, who discusses the farming technologies helping her to conserve water and soil in hopes of preserving the land for her son. To get a better sense as to whether Jennifer’s green efforts are representative of the industry as a whole, Jay chats with Riceland’s VP of Sales, Mark Holt, about how the farmer-owned co-op works to process, sell, and distribute the farmers’ yields, all while disseminating environmentally-friendly practices that trickle down from food manufacturers. One of rice’s biggest purchasers happens to be Anheuser-Busch, so Jay calls upon Agronomy Manager Bill Jones to explain how a brewery is helping green initiatives get to scale via model farms and strategic sourcing programs.

Looking forward, Jay learns from Dr. Alton B. Johnson, director of the Rice and Research Extension Center at the University of Arkansas, about the methods going into developing new strains of rice that will require less water and, in turn, emit less methane. He’s also shocked to hear about the innovative ways in which Riceland is putting its rice waste to use in hopes of offsetting some of the crop’s less desirable greenhouse effects. Finally, Jay speaks to Jennifer’s son Dylan about how college is helping Arkansas’ future farmers be on the cutting edge of rice innovation.

Featuring: Jay Tipton, Jennifer James, Paula DiPerna, Mark Holt, Bill Jones, Dr. Alton B. Johnson, Dylan James
Produced by: Alicia Clark
Executive Produced by: Melissa Panzer, Joan Lynch, Art Bilger
Written by: Jay Tipton, Alicia Clark, Mike Zunic
Associate Producer: Eve Bilger
Talent Producer: Emily Lallouz
Edited and Sound Mixed by: Lynz Floren
Assistant Editor: Mengfang Yang
Music by: Avocado Junkie
Made possible by: the Walton Family Foundation