Release 99-46      
December 10, 1999


Jerry Martin
Gennet Osborn
(916) 322-2990
Rice Straw Report Forwarded to the California Legislature
     SACRAMENTO --  Today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved a  progress report on Sacramento Valley rice straw burning which will be forwarded to the California Legislature.

        The biennial report, developed jointly by the ARB and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), outlines the progress toward completing the 75 percent phasedown of rice straw burning in the Sacramento Valley by September, 2001.  Included in the report are the steps being taken to find alternatives to burning rice straw.

        ARB Executive Officer Michael Kenny said, "With further development of new technologies, incentives and grants, we are confident that the phasedown process will be successful in the long term.  However, we continue to work on balancing the concerns of rice growers with our mission to protect public health.  We appreciate the cooperation of the rice industry in helping us to find alternatives to burning or plowing under rice straw."

        Alternatives to burning are slowly developing, but not fast enough.  The report recommends the continuance of state-funded grants and tax incentives for growers and entrepreneurs considering the use of diverted rice straw to make commercially useful products such as ethanol and construction material.

        Over the last two years, the ARB's Rice Straw Demonstration Project Fund and the CDFA's rice straw utilization tax credit program have provided entrepreneurs with business assistance for straw use.

        Currently, rice farmers are allowed to burn 200,000 acres of straw annually in the Sacramento Valley, however, growers are limited to 90,000 acres in the fall.  Although farmers prefer to burn in the fall, air quality is at its poorest because of inversion layers or winds blowing smoke over urban areas.  Approximately 97 percent of the straw that is not burned is incorporated back into the soil.  It is estimated that by 2001, only 5 to 10 percent of rice straw will be used in alternative projects, leaving soil incorporation as the primary means of complying with the 75 percent phasedown requirement starting in September, 2001.

        The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency.  ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy.  The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

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