Rice was introduced to California during the Gold Rush with the influx of Chinese immigrants. However, it took decades for growers to learn the best location and varieties of rice to grow in California. Commercial production began in Butte County in 1912 with Swedish immigrants learning rice farming methods out of necessity as no other crop was commercially viable in their heavy clay soils.
Today, California is the largest producer of short and medium grain (Calrose) Japonica rice in the United States. 2,500 family rice farmers produce 2.5 million tons or more of rice annually making it the second largest rice growing state in the nation and contributing nearly $1 billion to the state's economy. California rice is exported to Japan, Korea,Taiwan, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. It is widely distributed throughout the United States to the Korean and Japanese communities, specialty restaurants and health food markets. Preferred for its processing characteristics, makers of cereals, baby food, rice flour and crisped rice for candy and health bar manufacturers all utilize California rice.
Over 550,000 acres, or 98% of the California's rice is grown within 100 miles north of the State Capital. For the rural Sacramento Valley counties of Colusa, Butte, Sutter and Yuba, rice is the predominant crop and provides significant foundation to the economic activities of these areas.