Arkansas is recognized for its natural beauty. With its stunning rivers, majestic mountains and incredible wildlife, I am regularly reminded of how blessed we are to live in The Natural State. Our environment is an attractive location for outdoor enthusiasts from all across the world.
Hunting is a popular pastime and a great activity for all ages to come together to enjoy Arkansas's outdoors. This time of year, duck hunters are gearing up for the season. It just doesn't get any better than duck hunting in Arkansas - getting up early and being out on a cold, crisp, quiet morning before the sunrise eagerly awaiting the waterfowl to fly in - it is really unique.
It's important we continue to work together to preserve our resources so future generations can share our love of hunting. Fortunately, there is ongoing bipartisan dedication to conservation.
Since 1934, sportsmen have been required to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp to hunt migratory birds. This initiative has proven successful. Last year it generated $37.5 million.
This summer the Senate passed legislation I championed to make it easier to attain the Duck Stamp.
The Duck Stamp Modernization Act would authorize an electronic stamp for use through the entirety of a waterfowl hunting season, which would create a more seamless and accessible approach for hunters.
That money collected from the Duck Stamp is deposited into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to strengthen conservation.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission is in charge of disbursing money from that fund. I’m proud to serve as a member of the commission and secure money to support conservation and preservation in Arkansas. The commission recently approved funding for more than 2,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in St. Francis and Lee counties in eastern Arkansas.
This investment will continue to bolster the unique environment that makes our state an ideal location for migrating ducks.
Duck hunting and rice farming go hand in hand. In the winter, post-harvest rice fields are flooded to prevent soil erosion, crafting a welcoming habitat for migrating ducks that also feed on the remaining grain.
The Rice Stewardship Partnership is leading the way in connecting agriculture and conservation. This teamwork between USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited has helped develop innovative techniques and practices to support Arkansas rice producers and waterfowl habitat.
This partnership has beneficially impacted more than 800,000 acres of rice and rice rotation lands on more than 1,000 farms nationwide. This has led to positive conservation outcomes for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl. We recently commemorated the 10-year anniversary of this collaboration with a Senate resolution and I am confident it will continue to be a leader in responsible land management for years to come.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, we are currently focused on writing the next Farm Bill that will help Arkansas continue to be a leader in conservation. Farm Bill investments have supported wetland conservation with over 270,000 acres of wetland easements across the state that have improved waterfowl habitat.
Arkansas is blessed with a wonderful landscape and incredible wildlife that attract people from across the country to enjoy. Rice production and hunting are activities deeply engrained in its identity, and I’m committed to advocating for and promoting commonsense policies that increase conservation of natural and economic resources. As duck hunting season is upon us, I wish all hunters, farmers and Arkansans a great season, and encourage all of us to cherish and protect the treasures of our state for future hunters and farmers.