USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White told the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on farm bill conservation programs that U.S. rice acreage has played an important conservation role in providing waterfowl benefits through the Migratory Birds Habitat Initiative (MBHI). Jeff Trandahl, executive director and chief executive officer for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), referred in his oral statement to the role that rice fields played in the MBHI's implementation.
White cited the enormous response by rice and other Southern commodity producers to the 2010 MBHI, in which 471,000 total acres were enrolled. NRCS created the MBHI and worked with NFWF, Ducks Unlimited (DU),and other partners to make available federal conservation funds on a shared, voluntary basis for rice and other crop acres to be enrolled and managed for migratory waterfowl to use in place of their coastal marsh and waters habitat damaged in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Rice acres made up the majority of MBHI-enrolled lands.
In its written statement, DU noted that it works with rice producers in California and the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley as part of its focus on migratory bird habitat conservation.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) held the hearing to receive testimony from U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation agencies, farmers, and private sector conservation organizations. Stabenow said that agricultural lands "must remain healthy." Working lands conservation "sits at the very core of our ability to meet production challenges without sacrificing our vital natural resources, she said.
The USA Rice Federation strongly supports and a number of its producers participate in voluntary, incentive-based, cost-shared conservation programs.