NRCS and Ducks Unlimited Looking to Help Central Valley Rice Producers Improve Irrigation Efficiency

RED BLUFF, Calif., July 19, 2016 – USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is currently accepting applications from California landowners in 10 Central Valley counties for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) – Rice Stewardship Partnership, sponsored by Ducks Unlimited, Inc in partnership with USA Rice Federation.

For fiscal year 2016, the cutoff date for RCPP – Rice Stewardship Partnership funding is August 19, 2016. Funding through this signup is available to eligible California farmers in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sutter, Tehama, Yolo, and Yuba counties.

The Rice Stewardship Partnership RCPP seeks to provide financial and technical assistance opportunities to rice farmers to help improve the efficiency of irrigation water use and minimize water quality impacts in California's Central Valley, while also benefitting wildlife.

"Interested rice producers are encouraged to visit their local NRCS office as soon as possible," said Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist for California. "This partnership between Ducks Unlimited and NRCS is providing a great opportunity for rice producers to improve irrigation efficiency and water quality, as well as wildlife habitat, on their farms."

Because rice is 100 percent irrigated and having adequate supplies of water is fundamental to production, the Rice Stewardship Partnership's main priority is increased water quantity. The secondary priority for the partnership is improved water quality, specifically improving on-farm production that will maximize fertilizer uptake, minimize nutrient losses, and prevent pesticide losses on working rice fields.

The improvement of water quantity and quality will also help provide habitat and nourishment for approximately seven million ducks and geese migrating along the Pacific Flyway each year.

"We're grateful for the opportunity to work with NRCS, landowners and other partners on this project," said Craig Garner, regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited. "Because nearly 95 percent of California's historical wetlands in the Central Valley are now gone, flooded rice fields provide vital habitat and food for waterfowl in the fall and winter. This partnership will help landowners with water conservation as well as deliver added benefits for wildlife."

Funding for this partnership effort is being made available through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP applications are accepted year-round, but interested producers need to be ready by August 19, 2016, to be considered for this year's funding.

To be ready for EQIP funding consideration, interested applicants will need to: 1) submit the application form, 2) meet program eligibility requirements, 3) develop a conservation plan, and 4) approve their ‘EQIP schedule of operations.' The time needed to complete a conservation plan and process eligibility can vary, from a few weeks to more than a month, depending on the complexity of the farming operation. Applicants are advised to contact NRCS at least 4-6 weeks prior to the funding cutoff date.

For more information about the Rice Stewardship Partnership RCPP, please visit the NRCS website or visit your local USDA Service Center.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. 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 13.6 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. For more information, visit www.ducks.org.

Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has worked in partnership with private landowners and a variety of local, state and federal conservation partners to deliver conservation based on specific, local needs. Please visit www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov for more information about NRCS.