As a result of months of close work with the State Water Resources Control Board, rice (and wild rice) growers have received commodity specific exemptions in the newly adopted Wetlands Definition and Dredge and Fill Procedures. The language covers rice and wild rice production, and cultural practices associated with production, while designating rice fields as a water of the state. Importantly, rice fields have not been assigned a Wildlife Beneficial Use, or any other beneficial use designation, which would have had significantly impacted voluntary habitat practices undertaken by the industry.
In the approved regulation, cropping changes are allowed on prior converted cropland and wetlands that are, or have been, in rice or wild rice production within the last five years and have not been abandoned due to five consecutive years of non-use in rice production. This provision is of great concern to the environmental interests, and it is expected that the issue of crop conversion may be taken up in future review and updates of the regulation.
The CRC will work with our legal counsel to provide additional information about conversion of croplands under current state and federal regulations.