California rice growers wishing to participate in a state-funded program to flood their fields for winter wildlife habitat have until Sept. 14 to submit their requests to the state. Growers who qualify this year will receive $15 per acre to flood their rice fields
The California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program helps rice farmers cover the costs of water they would purchase to flood their fields in the winter. Flooding rice fields in the winter does two things: rice stubble decomposes under the flooded conditions, reducing the need to burn stubble after harvest; and, the water provides winter habitat for countless birds and other wildlife during the winter months. The incentive program aims to improve habitat opportunities for these migratory fowl and other wildlife.
Luke Matthews, wildlife program manager with the California Rice Commission, says state funds from a bill passed a year ago provides growers with a nominal amount of money to help cover their water costs. Depending on those costs, the money can completely offset those water costs, or at least bring them to a more financially manageable level.
Matthews says the purpose of the bill is to incentivize the creation of additional winter habitat for migratory birds that fill the Sacramento Valley each winter. The program stipulates that rice fields be flooded for a minimum of 70 continuous days from October through March. About 19,000 acres of northern California rice ground was involved in the program last year.
Specifics on the plan, including an application with detailed instructions, can be found online at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/CWHP/Private-Lands-Programs.