Rice Straw Forage Export Report

This page updated September 17, 2007.

Rice Straw Forage Export Report
Submitted To California Air Resources Board
Rice Fund Grant

April 5, 2000

By Ron Anderson and Steve Van Mouwerik for
Anderson Hay and Grain Co., Inc.


Anticipating the receipt of the CARB Rice Fund Grant in 1998, Anderson Hay and Grain began a very ambitious undertaking - the export of California rice straw to Japan. Until then, the prospect of actually exporting California rice straw to Japan had been merely a speculative and remote possibility.

The pursuit of Japanese approval for the import of California rice straw does not occur on a company-to-country basis, such as Anderson-to-Japan, but must occur at an industry level that works through each country's respective agricultural agencies. In this case, the National Hay Association (NHA) Export Committee was to play the key role of representing industry goals and knowledge to our US Department of Agriculture (USDA). And Ron Anderson, as Co-Chairman of the NHA's Export Committee, was to play the leading role in organizing NHA and forage exporters' interests as an industry for the necessary cooperation with the USDA. Throughout this report, references to NHA efforts and work represent Ron Anderson's efforts and work in his capacity as NHA Export Committee Co-Chairman.

In the past 25 years, the NHA has been the instrument through which forage industry issues have been addressed with the USDA and with Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (MAFF). Over these two plus decades, the NHA, USDA, and MAFF have developed a set of precedents for addressing phyto-sanitary concerns that are fundamental part of any agricultural export. Accordingly, treatment protocols and certification standards and programs have been developed and applied to the export of different types of hay and straw from the United States to Japan.

The approach to obtaining approval for the export of California rice straw to Japan has been to rely on and utilize this existing structure of practices, relationship, and precedents among the NHA, USDA, and Japan MAFF.

Rice Straw Timeline

In late 1997, well before the CARB Rice Fund Grant was awarded, very preliminary efforts were underway to develop a long list of pests and diseases known to occur in California rice. This was undertaken through talks with USDA and Japan MAFF in Tokyo and ongoing correspondence. The USDA Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) provided this long list to Japan MAFF in March 1998.

Thereafter, the production of a short list was the duty of Japan MAFF. The rice pest short list was delayed throughout 1998. The NHA, working through USDA, placed rice straw on the table during the Japan - U.S. Bi-Lateral Talks in September of 1998, which led to promises of a pending reply from Japan MAFF. Nine more months of correspondence, meetings in San Francisco, Washington DC, and Japan were to occur before Japan MAFF's short-list was formally produced in July 1999.

The formal pest short list listed seven species of pests and diseases US exporters must prevent from introduction into Japan before approval for importation by Japan MAFF. The presentation of this short list gave rise to the need for USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) to become involved, as they have been in previous pest treatment issues with NHA and Japan MAFF since 1973.

Throughout the balance of 1999, NHA efforts were focused on securing a commitment and schedule from the USDA ARS for defining and proving the treatments that would then be presented to Japan MAFF for approval. During this time, rice straw harvesting techniques and supply issues learned within Anderson's Infrastructure portion of its Rice Fund Grant were put into reports that provided critical field practices and economic background to the USDA. These reports also provided the USDA a clear understanding of the importance of rice farming to the California economy and a clear understanding of the imminent cessation of field burning. These efforts culminated in a watershed meeting in January, 1999 in Washington DC that included USDA APHIS, ARS, and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) representatives and NHA representatives Ron Anderson and Don Kieffer, NHA Executive Director.

USDA officials agreed to a USDA / NHA Rice Export Workshop in Sacramento. This workshop was held in March in Sacramento and was attended by a broad range of forage export industry participants (NHA members and non-members) and USDA officials. Much expertise and many industry opinions were collected into developing a common approach to examining the issues and challenges of placing California rice straw into the Japan market. In this meeting, industry members expressed the need for this new market and its potential. Estimates of 500,000 tons per year were commonly used. (This represents about 250,000 acres of rice straw.) Overall, a large volume of information was shared among forage export industry members and USDA officials.

The meeting concluded with USDA ARS, APHIS, and FAS agreeing to work with NHA, as they have so successfully in the past, to develop a treatment protocol that Japan MAFF will accept. The meeting was also very successful in that potential division among industry members was resolved into a common effort under NHA auspices and USDA commitment of its resources with NHA as their industry and rice straw project counterpart.

At this writing, it is safe to say that a great deal has been accomplished in the past two plus years and that the NHA and USDA have finally achieved a good deal of momentum and clarity on this project of securing Japan's approval of California rice straw.

Projected Activities

The following is an anticipated lineup of activities:

  1. April - USDA drafts formal research agreement between themselves and NHA.

  2. 2000 - NHA provides goods, services, and a to-be-determined percent of matching funds for costs of research and trials.  

  3. April - USDA formally defines research plan and research format for rice straw project. (This will include culturing pests and fungus that are on the short list in order to have available for treatment trials.)

  4. May / June - NHA will call another Sacramento meeting for USDA and industry members to meet and discuss research plan and progress.

  5. 2000 - NHA will assess several heat treatment processes in order to short list most sensible options for use in USDA treatment research. Options currently include microwave, dry heat, and steam heat. Steam heat is currently used in China with mixed reports on its success.

  6. 2000-01 - NHA Export Committee will be actively coordinating interested industry members, whether NHA members or non-members, throughout entire process.

  7. 2000-01 - Out of the above steps in which NHA and USDA work together, a treatment protocol will be defined that will be presented to Japan MAFF for acceptance. When accepted, they will require a series of confirmation tests that they directly participate in and oversee. This step involves close work among Japan MAFF, USDA, and NHA.    

After over two years of developing this project and getting it on its feet, the NHA, USDA, and Japan MAFF generally agree that a goal of obtaining a Japan MAFF-approved treatment protocol by end of 2001 is feasible. Past experience shows that there are many twists and turns in the course of developing and confirming treatment protocols for forages that are to be exported to Japan. This timeline should be considered a cautiously optimistic, "working" schedule.

Anderson Rice Fund Grant funds will be discretionarily applied as appropriate and as best suited to keep rice straw approval efforts moving forward. Activities to which Rice Grant funds would be applied are expected to possibly include lab work and experimental work, treatment trials, shipping and material handling, project management, travel, and information updates and forums for industry and USDA participants. To date they have included travel, management time, industry updates, and administrative costs associated with bringing industry, USDA, and Japan MAFF needs and goals to the points of accomplishment described in this report. This rice straw export work is complemented by the rice straw harvesting (Infrastructure) experience obtained by Anderson during the past two years.

During the course of the rice straw export project with USDA, NHA, and Japan MAFF, updates and milestones will be reported under Anderson's Rice Fund Grant reporting format.

Progress Report Executive Summaries