NRCS Seeks Farmers to Flood Fields for Winter Waterfowl

09:05PM Oct 28, 2014
( Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today )

Eligible producers are encouraged to apply by Nov. 7, 2014.

Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service

DAVIS, Calif. – Record numbers of waterfowl are heading south to the Pacific flyway looking for migratory or overwintering habitat.  A third year of drought means the birds are arriving in the Sacramento Valley, a region designated as an International Area of Shorebird Importance, when it is critically short on water and needed migratory and wintering resources.

To help alleviate a habitat shortfall, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is looking for eligible farmers in six Sacramento Valley counties who are willing to flood their fields for the birds.

The application deadline for this one-time, special opportunity will run through Nov 7, 2014.

“These birds are now arriving in California’s Central Valley where drought conditions have resulted in fallowed fields and cuts in water allotments,” said State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “Farm fields typically provide 50 percent of the migratory bird food resources and rice farmers are experiencing an 80 percent reduction in available surface water.  Our intention is to provide incentives to create 10,000 acres of shallow water wetlands and mudflats for shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba counties,” said Suarez.  

The winter waterfowl initiative will provide financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to agricultural producers who are willing to follow precise water management guidelines on flooded agricultural fields. Upon selection, participating land owners will immediately apply water to fields and maintain between 4-6 inches of water until at least February 1. Farmers who implement these recommended practices will create immediate habitat with the appropriate critical water depth and timing needed by the waterbirds.

Eligible farmers interested in the program can contact their local NRCS Service Center to learn more about the program and application process. To download a copy of the program description from the NRCS Web site, go to: Application of water to fields will follow NRCS guidelines. Applications will be screened and ranked using factors that measure the projected environmental benefits towards improving wildlife habitat.