Ducks Unlimited recently joined the California Rice Commission, Northern California Water Association, National Resources Conservation Service, and several local farmers and water district representatives for a series of press conferences to inform the public and media about the toll the western drought is taking on waterfowl in Northern California, as well as on farmers and the economy.

With a backdrop of the Sacramento skyline and several crop fields, DU Western Region Director Mark Biddlecomb spoke about the impacts of water cutbacks on ducks and other birds that depend on flooded rice fields for nutrition during the winter.

"When rice acreage is reduced, the 4 million to 6 million waterfowl that use those fields as a feeding area during the winter become very crowded, which can lead to disease. The stress from the lack of food and habitat can also have major effects on the birds when they attempt to return north to the breeding grounds," Biddlecomb told the crowd of television and print reporters gathered at Flying Air Service, an agricultural aerial applicator company that could eventually see a decrease in business if local farm fields are fallowed.

"Every farmer is going to feel the pain," Bryce Lundberg, vice president of agriculture for Lundberg Family Farms, told The Sacramento Bee. "But we're going to be utilizing every drop of water to the fullest. We're going to grow as many crops as possible."

DU is working closely with landowners and rice farmers to ensure that water efficiency is maximized throughout the Central Valley, the second most threatened area for North America's waterfowl.