WASHINGTON – Feb. 23, 2012 –
The USA Rice Federation and Ducks Unlimited hosted a joint congressional luncheon to raise awareness of the importance of flooded rice fields to the nation's wintering and migrating waterfowl. Members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and their staffs attended the first-of-its-kind luncheon last week.
"Nowhere is the compatibility of agricultural working lands and waterfowl habitat more apparent than in the case of rice agriculture," said Scott Manley, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation programs and editor of Conservation in Ricelands of North America
Rice fields provide 30 to 60 percent of the food resources
available to wintering dabbling ducks along the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and in the Central Valley of California, according to research. These three major rice-growing regions of the United States overlap exactly with Ducks Unlimited's top three highest non-breeding-ground habitat priorities
A variety of rice and duck dishes were enjoyed by the attendees as they viewed a video with information about U.S. rice production and the habitat benefits provided to waterfowl and other birds by flooded rice fields. The attendees also received literature about the economic and environmental benefits of U.S. rice production.
Rice agriculture provides managed wetland habitats which largely sustain the waterfowl DU is dedicated to protecting. Following the rice harvest in the fall, hundreds of thousands of acres of rice fields are flooded
, creating habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds and providing an excellent food source during winter months.
"No other agricultural group does as much for wetlands and waterfowl conservation as America's rice growers," said DU Director of Public Policy Dan Wrinn. "Every year rice producers provide critical migratory and wintering habitat for millions of ducks and geese and other migratory birds across the country."
Because of the natural overlap of their missions, the two organizations have a long-standing partnership. USA Rice awarded DU the 2011 Distinguished Conservation Award
, which recognizes the organization's exemplary leadership and other major contributions to conservation that significantly benefit natural resources, wildlife and American communities.
"DU's conservation, restoration and management of wetlands and other habitats for North America's waterfowl is vital," USA Rice Producers' Group Conservation Committee Chairman Leo LaGrande said. "This event provides a great opportunity to inform others about the special relationship between rice farmers and DU and our shared commitment to water birds."
The USA Rice Federation is the global advocate for all segments of the U.S. rice industry with a mission to promote and protect the interests of producers, millers, merchants and allied businesses.
Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.