Editor’s Note: The announcement of the USA Rice/Ducks Unlimited Conservation Partnership was the first event I covered for AgWatch. Dale Hall was my first interview. Hard to believe it’s been 5 years already! This partnership, which seems so logical to us now, was groundbreaking at the time. AgWatch looks forward to covering more NGO/government/private partnerships, and wishes them all the success we’ve seen with this one! T
USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and financial partners came together here this week to celebrate the Rice Stewardship Partnership’s first five years and set goals for the next five years. The Partnership was formed in 2013 when USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited joined forces to magnify conservation impacts vital to the future of rice production and wetland habitat, and it has grown significantly with new partners and supporters.
The program kicked off with greetings from Nestlé Purina’s Vice President of Government Relations Bill Salzman and Senior Manager of Sustainability Diane Herndon. Pet food giant Nestlé Purina recently became a Stewardship program partner, committing $2 million over the next four years to support the programs.
Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, and USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward then shared some of the Partnership’s top accomplishments of the past five years including creating a field team of more than 20 knowledgeable and dedicated staff serving rice producers around the country, and spreading conservation financial assistance to more than 1,000 farms covering more than three quarters of a million acres through 2023.
“Farmers are good stewards of the land, and we need to ensure conservation practices are economically sustainable for them,” said Hall. “Collectively, Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards have, or will soon, provide a total of more than $85 million in financial assistance for conserving water and wildlife resources in rice country. Because of the tremendous leadership by NRCS and the support we received through RCPP, rice growers across the United States are maintaining critical habitat for millions of migratory birds.”
The summit also included sustainability updates from stakeholders including Anheuser-Busch, BASF, Corteva, Delta Plastics, Field to Market, Mosaic, Nestlé Purina, Riceland Foods, and RiceTec, Inc.
Rice producers, including those in the Partnership’s Beginning Farmers Program like Lawrence Wagner of Mississippi, Wes Simon of Louisiana, and Ryan and Gavin Sullivan of Arkansas, shared their experiences with the RCPP programs and how their farms have been positively impacted through participation. All expressed the sentiment that these types of conservation programs are imperative for the nation’s rice producers.
“USA Rice can do so much more for the rice industry by investing time and resources in partnerships,” said Ward. “The Rice Stewardship Partnership is a perfect example of leveraging a common goal between different stakeholders to advance sustainability at the farm level through new and innovative conservation practices. I can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.”
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