More than a decade ago, retail titan Walmart announced three long-term goals – it wanted to run on 100% renewable energy, create zero waste and sell products that sustain resources and the environment.
"As one of the largest companies in the world, with an expanding global presence, environmental problems are our problems,” admitted Walmart’s chief executive Lee Scott when he first rolled out the plan in 2005. Since that time, Walmart has launched or funded programs aimed at more sustainable palm oil, beef, seafood and more.
The latest potential benefactors? U.S. rice producers. Earlier in August, the Walmart Foundation announced a $1 million grant for rice stewardship efforts in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and along the Gulf Coast. It supports work conducted by the USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership.
“The Stewardship Partnership is the delivery mechanism to provide in-person conservation technical assistance to the tremendous number of rice farmers interested in participating in the programs,” says Josh Hankins, USA Rice stewardship partnership coordinator. “Only a small percentage of the RCPP [Regional Conservation Partnership Program] is dedicated to fund staffing for this role, so we’re continuing to seek additional, outside funding to better provide the support needed on the ground to rice growers interested in implementing suites of conservation practices on their farms.”
The funding will be used primarily to assist and train farm owners, operators and workers, Hankins says. Conservation projects will also primarily use locally sourced contractors and supplies, which could have a positive effect on rural economies, he says.
“The challenge here is to conserve three critical natural resources in North America: working ricelands, water and wetland wildlife,” Hankins says. “The support of groups like the Walmart Foundation is critical to our ability to make this level of change happen.”
For more information on the RCPP’s various conservation and sustainability efforts, visit www.usarice.com/public-policy/conservation.