California agriculture, agriculture economics, rice straw burning, rice


The burning of agricultural residues, particularly rice straw, has long been an issue of public concern in California's Sacramento Valley. Especially during days of autumn temperature inversions, the smoke in the atmosphere from burning is regarded by some as a serious health hazard and by nearly all residents as a public nuisance. Strong pressures have resulted in stringent regulations over agricultural burning, but a growing number of voices advocate a strict prohibition on burning. The prospect of a burning ban is worrisome to rice growers since burning is not only the most cost-effective way of disposing of the straw, but it also destroys organisms that cause rice diseases, particularly stem rot. Thus, it is argued that a ban on burning would reduce rice yields, increase production costs, and could threaten the economic viability of the California rice industry. However, no one knows the total economic effects of a burning ban. This report makes a start in addressing the issue. Given what is known about the expected impacts on rice yields and the costs of growing and marketing rice absent residue disposal by burning, what shifts in rice and competing crops would occur? How would California farmer profits be affected? And what losses would be suffered by consumers from resulting higher rice prices? Obviously, factors affecting the profitability of growing rice in California are complex and diverse. Especially critical are the world market for rice and the current income and price support policies of the federal government. Both have shifted significantly in recent,years. Exports of California rice are much lower than in the 1970s and early 1980s, and world market prices are also much lower. Also, rice farmers get a much larger fraction of their incomes from direct government payments than they did in the 1970s and early 1980s. This changing context means that the burning ban issue must be considered within a broader economic and policy framework.

Original Publication Citation

Impacts on California Agriculture of a Ban on Rice Straw Burning. (with Richard E. Howitt and Charles Goodman), Giannini Foundation Information Series No. 90-1. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, October 1990, pp. 1-23.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Giannini foundation of Agricultural Economics`




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor