The Arkansas Waterfowl Rice Incentive Conservation Enhancement (WRICE) program was developed by AGFC 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 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 percent 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/acre to allow public access to their currently enrolled WRE properties for hunting and wildlife-viewing throughout the year.
Program Requirements and Payments
Landowners with rice fields who receive incentive payments from the WRICE program must:
Suspend fall tillage (choose one or more post-harvest options: A-C)
- Leave stubble standing
- Roll stubble with a flat or cleated roller
- Conduct patchy burns
Shallow-water development by either (choose one or more post-harvest options: A or B)
- Rainfall-dependent flooding ($25/acre)
- Ensure fields are capable of holding water at an average depth of 6-18 inches from Oct. 15-Feb. 15
- Surface-water pumping ($50/acre)
- Surface water must be readily available for flooding Nov. 1-Feb. 15
- Ensure fields are capable of holding water Nov. 1-Feb. 15
- Pump surface water as needed to ensure flooding at an average depth of 6-18 inches from Nov. 1-Feb. 15
Permit waterfowl hunting and wildlife viewing ($100/acre)
- Allow walk-in hunting by randomly selected parties of four hunters or less each weekend of waterfowl season.
- AGFC staff will post fields as special waterfowl hunting areas and implement a permitted hunt program.
AGFC staff will monitor enrolled fields weekly during the contracted flooding period to determine flooding status. Payment will be made in two installments.
- 50 percent of the contract total will be paid following successful flood up.
- Up to 50 percent of the contract total will be paid at the end of contract based on performance.
- For example, if an enrolled field is flooded during 80 percent of monitoring visits, total payment will be 80 percent of the contract total.
Landowners with Wetland Reserve Easements who receive incentive payments from the WRICE program must:
Allow public walk-in hunting and wildlife viewing ($50/acre)
- Hunting and wildlife viewing will be open to the public during specific seasons and dates
- AGFC staff will post fields as special walk-in hunting and wildlife viewing areas.