WASHINGTON, DC Jan. 8, 2018 The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced approvals from the most recent slate of Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) proposals. Established in the 2014 Farm Bill, the RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed and delivered by innovative partnerships. Two proposals led by Ducks Unlimited and supported by more than 17 collaborating partners will receive nearly $6 million.

RCPP enables us to work side by side with rice producers, NRCS field offices, Soil &Water Conservation Districts, River Authorities and supply-chain partners to accelerate conservation efforts and achieve measurable progress, said DU Director of Conservation Innovation Dr. Scott Manley. NRCS has demonstrated admirable vision and tangible results through this program, and we look forward to continued positive outcomes for valuable natural resources such as water, soil and wildlife.

Rice agriculture provides critical habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife. USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited formalized the Rice Stewardship Partnership in 2013 to sustain the future of water, working rice lands and waterfowl in the U.S.

Rice Stewardship serves as a model of cooperation between a farm group and a conservation organization as the groups collaborate on public policy, research and management practices that advance mutual interests.

The latest RCPP projects focus on conservation of water and habitat in ricelands in Texas and Louisiana. The two states provide continentally important habitat for waterfowl in two of DUs top conservation priorities the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

The Cultivating Water Conservation on Working Lands project will restore cypress-tupelo brakes in seven parishes in Louisiana. By restoring brakes on working agricultural lands to capture surface water and storm runoff, farmers can improve water quality and improve habitat for wildlife while reducing pumping costs and groundwater use. This project will be supported with $450,000 in RCPP funding.

The partnership between NRCS, DU and USA Rice offers increased technical and financial assistance to help producers accomplish conservation goals on their land. But the tangible benefits to farmers, the environment and all Americans will be realized far into the future, said NRCS Louisiana State Conservationist Kevin Norton.

The Gulf Coast Water and Wildlife Conservation project will help rice producers in Louisiana and Texas conserve natural resources while having long-term positive impacts on their bottom line. Project partners will assist NRCS and Texas River Authorities in Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts and address water quantity and habitat concerns in the Gulf Coast. It will be supported with $5.43 million in RCPP funding.

These projects focus on water, our most valuable natural resource in Texas, said NRCS State Conservationist for Texas Salvador Salinas. With our states population projected to nearly double by 2050 we must act now to ensure water is available for future generations.

Rice Stewardship funders include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Walmart Foundation, the Mosaic Company Foundation, Nestl Purina PetCare, Chevron U.S.A., Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation, RiceTec, BASF, American Rice, Inc. Riviana Foods, Inc., Delta Plastics, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Wells Fargo, Farmers Rice Milling Company, Horizon Ag, Turners Creek &Bombay Hook Farms, MacDon Industries, Dow AgroSciences, Riceland Foods and Ducks Unlimited major sponsors.