Sacramento Valley, Calif., rice producers have the opportunity to make more of a conservation investment on their working lands this year.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has received an additional $2 million for wildlife habitat conservation improvements.

“We are happy to provide this additional investment to help rice producers conserve and improve California’s wildlife habitat,” said Ed Burton, NRCS State Conservationist.

“While this funding will go primarily toward pending unfunded applications, our local offices will continue to take new applications year-round, and offer landowners ongoing conservation planning and technical assistance.”

The $1.5 million in wildlife habitat incentives program (WHIP) and $500,000 in environmental quality incentives program (EQIP) funding is part of NRCS’ national Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative, and is in partnership with the California Rice Commission.

The funding is targeted to rice producers interested in creating additional habitat, including flooding fields during spring migration.

“We are excited that these funds are available,” said Paul Buttner, California Rice Commission environmental affairs manager.

“This will help us demonstrate the innovative practices California rice farmers can do to further enhance the value of California ricelands for waterbirds and other wetland-dependent species of wildlife,” Buttner said. “We look forward to working with the NRCS. Along with many other conservation groups, NRCS has been an important partner with California rice for many years.”

The funding is offered through the 2008 Farm Bill’s WHIP and EQIP efforts. The funding complements the approximately $60 million NRCS has already obligated this year in WHIP and EQIP conservation contracts.

Interested producers are encouraged to contact their local NRCS Service Center. Contact information is available at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=CA