This past Tuesday the CRC hosted a workshop for growers to provide them information on an immediate program offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to get an additional 10,000 acres of winter flooded fields out of the landscape.
Their action is based upon concerns about the impacts of the drought on populations of wintering waterfowl. Record numbers of birds are expected to arrive in the Sacramento Valley due to favorable nesting conditions up north. However, these birds will come to find a drought-stricken state with just a small fraction of normal acreages of quality winter wetland habitat.
The recent workshop was well attended and NRCS was on-hand to explain the program requirements and address questions. There seemed to be some reasonable optimism at the workshop that enough rice growers might be able to access surface or groundwater to increase flooding to help the birds.
California rice is very appreciative of NRCS for taking this problem so seriously and partnering with us to help waterbirds. However, they need to move fast to evaluate projects proposals and execute contracts. The final filing deadline is November 7, 2014. After this, NRCS will expedite actions to select and fund projects.