A groundbreaking new partnership between the USA Rice Federation (USA Rice) and Ducks Unlimited (DU) was forged recently to serve as a model of cooperation and communication between a farm group and a conservation organization. The USA Rice-DU Stewardship Partnership will address rice production, waterfowl and water conservation projects, programs and policies that are mutually beneficial to both organizations and to society.
“The USA Rice Federation and DU are honored to combine the people and resources from our organizations to preserve the unique, interconnected relationship of rice production, waterfowl and water,” said USA Rice Producers’ Group Chairman Linda Raun, a Texas rice producer. “We are enthusiastic to work together to preserve and expand the values and benefits that waterfowl, rice fields and water contribute to society.”
The USA Rice-DU Stewardship Partnership will work to bring about meaningful and long-term improvements to three of the nation’s critical natural and economic resources: waterfowl, working rice lands and water.
To achieve these objectives, the organizations will identify and pursue public policies, funding sources, communications strategies and strategically developed research and management practices that advance their mutual interests.
“Rice fields and waterfowl mutually benefit each other, and water is the essential underlying resource for both waterfowl and rice fields, as well as society as a whole,” said USA Rice Chairman Mark Denman.
Many wildlife species rely on the habitat created by rice farmers, making rice a unique working-lands crop. Winter-flooded rice fields lying along critical flyways provide food and cover resources that are vital resting and foraging habitat for migratory and wintering waterfowl. In 2012, the American rice industry planted approximately 2.67 million acres of this crop, according to the USDA.
The Rice Foundation, a separate rice-industry organization dedicated to industry-related research, sponsored a DU project to estimate the biological and economic contributions that rice fields make in support of North American waterfowl populations. DU's Mark Petrie is conducting the research, which is scheduled for completion this year. In 2011, USA Rice recognized DU’s decades-long major contributions to waterfowl conservation with the presentation of the Federation’s annual Distinguished Conservation Achievement Award. “The partnership we’ve formed with USA Rice is one that will not only benefit waterfowl and other wildlife, but also rice producers, hunters and citizens alike,” said Al Montna, DU’s partnership co-chair. “We will work together and build upon our common interests and challenges to sustain waterfowl and rice production on the landscape.”
Six members from both USA Rice and DU will serve on the Stewardship Partnership, and each organization will name one representative to co-chair the group. Co-chairing the group for DU is Al Montna of California. Jeff Durand, a Louisiana rice producer, will co-chair the Partnership for USA Rice.
Representing USA Rice will be rice producers Jeff Rutledge, Arkansas; Leo LaGrande, California; Jeff Durand, Louisiana; Gibb Steele, Mississippi; Rance Daniels, Missouri and Kenny Danklefs, Texas. DU’s representatives are Al Montna, California; Rogers Hoyt, Texas; David Blakemore, Missouri; Brandon Bauman, Arkansas; Doug Miller, Louisiana; Charlie Heinsz, Mississippi.