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Federal funding encourages rice farmers to help water birds

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Federal funding could soon help improve habitat for water birds on rice fields in California's Central Valley.

The region is an important stop along the Pacific flyway for migratory birds, but drought and human activity have eliminated many natural wetlands.

Collaboration between rice farmers and conservation groups encourages farming practices that help water birds.

The Sacramento Bee reports that participating farmers will receive payments to subsidize the cost of making changes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is contributing $7 million, matched by other agencies.

The program encourages flooding then gradually draining fields to create a longer-lasting habitat. The newspaper reports up to three times as many birds are found on rice fields that employ this method.

It also promotes building nesting islands, planting cover crops and creating seasonal ponds.

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