Arkansas rice growers have until Tuesday to enroll their fields in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement program.
Participants can earn as much as $150 per acre without affecting current production on their fields. Rice fields within 10 miles of waterfowl-focused AGFC wildlife management areas and national wildlife refuges are eligible. Landowners with land already enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Easement program may apply if they are willing to allow public access for hunting and wildlife viewing on their property. Applications are available at www.agfc.com/wrice.
The program's goal is to keep waste grain on the surface by forgoing fall tilling and and flooding fields at an appropriate depth for migrating waterfowl.
"A surprisingly small percentage of rice fields in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley are flooded each year," Luke Naylor, AGFC waterfowl program coordinator, said. "We also know through recent research that the amount of flooded rice fields on the landscape is a key driver of duck presence and abundance during fall migration and the overwintering period."
This is the third year that the program will include additional payments, up to $150 per acre total, for landowners who allow the AGFC to conduct limited, permit-based hunts on weekends of open waterfowl seasons.
The AGFC's WRICE program is made possible through a grant from the National Resources Conservation Service's Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program.
Landowners can visit www.agfc.com/wrice or contact their local private lands biologist through www.agfc.com/habitat.