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Rice producers in 12 Texas counties can apply for financial assistance to make on-farm improvements, thanks to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) – Rice Stewardship Partnership Project, sponsored by USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited.

Eligible counties include: Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Jackson, Jefferson, Lavaca, Liberty, Matagorda, Waller and Wharton. The National Rice RCPP and this Texas specific Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) sign-up will address three related natural resource opportunities in rice; water quantity, water quality and wetland habitat provided by rice.

Water quantity is the top concern in Texas, and practices such as underground pipelines on groundwater wells are the highest priority practices, followed by irrigation land leveling and water-control structures. The increased on-farm conservation planning will be delivered by partners.

“The main goal for Ducks Unlimited is to provide rice habitat for waterfowl, while also considering groundwater and surface water demands in rice production areas. We are all focused on ensuring the sustainability of that water source for the future of rice, people and waterfowl,” DU Outreach Biologist Kirby Brown said.

A total of $560,000 in financial assistance to producers is anticipated for the first Rice RCPP sign-up. Funding will be available to rice producers through EQIP. Producers should visit their local USDA service center before the first application pool closes on March 18 to apply for this opportunity. If funding permits, a second application pool will close May 20. The NRCS sets sign-up dates and specific deadlines for ranking, contracting and funding. Other ranking pool deadlines may be established if additional funding is available. This special opportunity for rice producers is following the same dates and deadlines as the state’s general EQIP sign-up.

“Interested rice producers need to visit their local NRCS office as soon as possible,” Brown said. “This partnership between USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited and NRCS is designed to help rice producers address water quantity and quality, as well as wildlife habitat on their farms.” Additional information on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program can be found here.