LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas produces more rice than any other state, and a new grant will help farmers explore ways to transition the industry to organic.
The Agriculture System Division at the University of Arkansas received a $ 500,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to research what it would take to grow organic rice nationwide.
Alvaro Durand-Morat, an assistant professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness at the university, said only a handful of the country’s 100 organic rice farmers are based in Arkansas. One of the barriers to entry is the lack of information on the functioning of the organic rice market.
“It’s such a small market that the fact that we don’t find a lot of public information may be the result of the structure of the market,” said Durand-Morat. “And therefore, our project tries to overcome that and make the information available to anyone who might see it as an opportunity in the future.”
He noted that the United States is a net importer of organic rice, although it exports almost half of the rice crop it produces each year.
The grant also includes a multi-state outreach program to share research findings with others across the country. Durand-Morat stressed that he sees the research as an opportunity for rice farmers in Arkansas and beyond to expand their businesses.
“We know that organic rice comes at a very high price,” observed Durand-Morat. “There are a large number of rice farmers who, if the conditions are right – if the market information is available and they can actually plan ahead – I think there is great potential for many farmers to Arkansas to eventually adopt organic rice. “
This summer, the University of Arkansas also received $ 1 million nasa grant to study greenhouse gases and rice cultivation. Rice production is estimated to create 8% of the world’s human-made methane emissions.
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