AR Game & Fish offers payments to rice producers for habitat, hunting access

Arkansas Game & Fish program

Photo courtesy Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

The Arkansas Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement program was developed by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists to help keep waste rice available for ducks, geese and other migrating birds when they pass through each winter.

It has recently been expanded to allow weekend permitted public waterfowl hunting opportunities on participating rice fields. Farmers may still operate and harvest their rice fields as normal, but they can receive added income by leaving stubble and flooding fields during waterfowl migration and allowing permitted public hunting opportunities.

Fall tillage is becoming increasingly popular with Arkansas rice growers, but the practice isn’t beneficial for the numerous migrating birds looking to find fuel they need. This tilling buries waste rice that would have been available to migrating waterfowl. Flooded rice fields are estimated to provide 11% of all food energy in the Mississippi Delta for ducks like mallards and pintails. And that percentage has dwindled with advances in agriculture.

Additionally, the program has expanded to include an opportunity for landowners who have Wetland Reserve Easements on their property. This new portion of the program will pay landowners $50 per acre to allow public access to their currently enrolled WRE properties for hunting and wildlife-viewing throughout the year.

Applications are being accepted through June 1. For more information, visit https://www.agfc.com.