Major grant awarded to rice industry, DU for habitat conservation efforts

Project will help rice producers conserve natural resources such as water, soil and waterfowl habitat

WASHINGTON, DC – Jan. 14, 2015 – Today, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced approved grants from the first round of proposals to the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The USA Rice Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Inc. (DU), and more than 40 collaborating partners are pleased that the "Rice Stewardship Partnership – Sustaining the Future of Rice" project was selected for support.

This project will help rice producers conserve natural resources such as water, soil and waterfowl habitat, while having long-term positive impacts on their bottom line.

The RCPP application process was very competitive; less than half of all applications were awarded funding, and no proposal was fully funded. However, the USA Rice and DU national request was deemed to have significant merit, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – the agency responsible for administering RCPP – awarded the partnership a grant of $10 million, one of the largest awards given under the program.

"The Mississippi Alluvial Valley, Texas' and Louisiana's Gulf Coast, and California's Central Valley are critical landscapes for waterfowl and therefore ranked as some of DU's top priorities for habitat conservation," said DU President and Arkansas rice producer George Dunklin.

A 2014 study conducted by DU scientists for The Rice Foundation demonstrated that rice agriculture provides 35 percent of the food resources available to migrating and wintering dabbling ducks in the regions where rice is grown in the United States.

"U.S. rice farms are valuable, not just for the nutritious commodity they produce and their positive impact on the economy, but also as important contributors to the entire ecosystem, and today's announcement from NRCS and USDA recognizes that fact," said USA Rice Federation Chairman Dow Brantley, an Arkansas rice farmer. "Wildlife and waterfowl depend on our farms as much as any of us do."

Established in the 2014 Farm Bill, the RCPP competitively awards funds to conservation projects designed by collaborating partners.

"RCPP provides an opportunity for locally driven partnerships to work side by side with local Conservation Districts and NRCS to accelerate conservation efforts and achieve measurable progress," said NRCS State Conservationist for Arkansas Mike Sullivan.

"The USA Rice Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and all of our partners commend the USDA for their vision in creating partnership-driven conservation initiatives, and we especially appreciate each of the six state NRCS offices who were instrumental in crafting a competitive proposal," said Betsy Ward, President & CEO of USA Rice. "This is a giant step forward for conservation in ricelands with many more steps to come."

"We applaud the many rice producers who integrate extra conservation measures into their rice production to maintain water quality and provide much-needed waterfowl habitat," said USDA NRCS Chief Jason Weller. "The partnership between DU, USA Rice, and USDA offers increased technical and financial assistance to help producers accomplish these goals on their land, and the tangible benefits to farmers, the environment, and all Americans will be felt for a long time."

Collaborating Partners

Agri-Drain Corporation Arkansas Assn. Conservation Districts
American Rice Inc. Anheuser Busch
Arkansas Rice Federation Arkansas Rice Research & Promotion Board
Arkansas Chapter – The Nature Conservancy BASF
Bunge North America California Rice Research & Promotion Board
California Rice Commission Central Valley Joint Venture
Delta Council Delta Plastics
Delta Wildlife Dow AgroSciences
Farmers Rice Mill Field to Market
Garden Highway Mutual Water Company Gulf Coast Joint Venture
Horizon Ag Kellogg
Louisiana Rice Mill Louisiana Rice Growers Assn.
Louisiana Rice Research & Promotion Board Lower Colorado River Authority
Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture Louisiana State University AgCenter
MacDon Industries Mars
Mississippi Rice Research & Promotion Board Missouri Department of Conservation
Missouri Rice Producers Group National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
Northern California Water Assn. Riceland Foods
RiceTec Syngenta
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group
The Climate Trust The Rice Foundation
Unilever USA Rice Council
USA Rice Merchants' Assn. USA Rice Millers' Assn.
USA Rice Producers' Group  

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13 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 on our work, visit Connect with us on our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at and watch DU videos at

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. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @usaricenews and @eatusrice.