Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall hailed the DU-USA Rice Stewardship Partnership as an “ideal marriage” in his keynote address during the annual Arkansas Rice Council and Arkansas Rice Farmers meeting in Stuttgart.
The partnership was formed to bring about meaningful and long-term improvements to three of the nation’s critical natural and economic resources: waterfowl, working rice lands and water.
“Every acre that is in rice production needs to stay in rice production,” Hall said. “Rice is the new wetlands — ducks live and feed in rice. [Ducks and rice] depend on each other.”
Many wildlife species rely on the habitat created by rice farmers, making rice a unique working-lands crop. Winter-flooded rice fields lying along critical flyways provide food and cover resources that are vital resting and foraging habitat for migratory and wintering waterfowl. In 2012, the American rice industry planted approximately 2.67 million acres of this crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Rice is critical to waterfowl and a whole lot of other species in nature,” he said. “We talk about waterfowl, but when you have rice you have a surrogate wetland. You have as close to nature as you're going to get.”
Scott Manley, DU director of conservation programs in the Southern region, said DU’s showing at the meeting is a testament to the partnership.
“Having both Dale Hall and George Dunklin here at the meeting, our CEO and president, reaffirms DU’s commitment to supporting rice producers and the overall industry that is so critical to waterfowl,” Manley said. “We look forward to working together more closely in the months and years ahead.”
The Rice Foundation, a separate rice-industry organization dedicated to industry-related research, contracted with DU to estimate the biological and economic contributions that rice fields make in support of North American waterfowl populations. DU's Dr. Mark Petrie is conducting the research, which is scheduled for completion this year.