MEMPHIS, Tenn. July 31, 2017 Ducks Unlimited traveled to Capitol Hill to support baiting regulation clarifications that benefit landowners, agricultural producers and waterfowl hunters.

Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee in support of the Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act (S. 1514). The HELP Act will clarify what constitutes baiting migratory birds in a way that will protect agriculture producers and hunters.

Ducks Unlimited supports a reasonable approach that would allow normal agricultural practices to be determined by the state cooperative extension service and the state fish and wildlife agency, in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Hall said. Agricultural practices vary across the country, and this approach ensures appropriate state-level conversations occur while guaranteeing that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service perspectives are also considered.

At issue is a currently confusing definition of waterfowl baiting which does not consider variations in crop type, extenuating weather events, crop insurance requirements and local harvest timing. This situation has inadvertently discouraged optimum habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds, prevented farmers from maximizing their on-farm income, and reduced opportunities for hunters who lease farmland and support local communities with tourism dollars. With millions of dollars in agriculture and outdoor recreation at stake, rule clarity and fairness are essential.

While rice is the most important agricultural crop for waterfowl in many parts of the country, crops like soybeans and corn also provide food resources, particularly in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. In recent years, tropical storms in late summer and early fall have flooded crops just prior to crop harvest. These severe weather events have resulted in crop damage and financial hardship for producers. To receive a crop insurance payment, these producers must destroy their crop through mechanical means (disking, mowing, plowing). If these fields are also managed and leased for waterfowl hunting, they are now considered baited for the purposes of hunting.

These activities are required by crop insurance rules, but the timing makes the interpretation questionable, Hall said. Furthermore, hunting leases often are executed in the summer or early fall while ratoon crops may be developing, leading to concerns and questions as to whether even a small standing ratoon crop near a blind may be altered to facilitate waterfowl hunting. The ultimate objective of law enforcement is voluntary compliance by citizens. When an honest hunter or landowner cannot interpret the regulations and feels compelled to call a wildlife officer to assure their fields are legal, then the regulations need to be modified to clarify and recognize normal agricultural practices.

The proposed language will empower states and federal agencies to cooperatively solve this unintended problem and potentially permit managed flooding as an allowable means to destroy a damaged crop.

The HELP Act also includes reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), one of Ducks Unlimiteds top priorities, and several other important provisions designed to improve the management of fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. The HELP Act will reauthorize the NAWCA, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and the Chesapeake Bay Program until 2023.

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 14 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

Media Contact:
James Powell