Mississippi farmers urge commissioners to support duck stamp funding

Published 10:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2023

JACKSON — A pair of farmers from Washington and Sunflower Counties urged the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission to continue funding duck stamp projects in a meeting Thursday. Their plea came during MDWFP’s public comment period at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting. 

Last month, Commissioners were split on if they should allocate duck stamp funding to waterfowl projects. The vote went 3-2 in support of funding the Fiscal Year 2024 Waterfowl Projects. 

Each year waterfowl hunters buy a federal duck stamp and a Mississippi duck stamp to hunt waterfowl in Mississippi. Funds raised by the stamps are then allocated towards habitat conservation and improvement projects, infrastructure needs on public land and other areas.

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Commissioner Garry Rhoads raised a question at the October commission meeting about why Mississippi sends money to the prairie pothole regions instead of keeping all of the money in Mississippi. Houston Havens, Waterfowl program coordinator, explained the ducks which fly through Mississippi originate from the prairie pothole region breeding grounds. Mississippi and Louisiana and several other states have funded this work for many years. 

Cameron Dinkins, who owns Esperanza Outdoors, is a farmer from Washington County. He said they are grateful for the money and resources MDWFP provides through partnership programs to help restore wetlands. 

“I operate a small guide service. It is a big part of what we do,” Dinkins said. “I wanted to address the state duck stamp funding to the prairie pothole region for enhancing wetlands there. Our standpoint is the more birds there are the better chances we have of harvesting and seeing more waterfowl in the winter. We are at the mercy of God in terms of weather moving birds down here. In a nutshell, whatever the total population is we get a certain percentage. It is affected greatly by the weather during duck season but the bottom line is the higher the total number of ducks the more ducks we will see. I pray you will continue to support those efforts with state duck stamp funds.” 

MDWFP allocated $399,431 to Mississippi waterfowl programs this year and $40,000 of those funds will go to the Private Land Wetland Program. The prairie pothole region will receive $250,000 and matching programs will increase the financial impact for habitat work in the Dakotas and Canada’s prairie where ducks breed. 

Walt Rambo, a farmer in Sunflower and Humphreys Counties, said he grows corn, rice and soybeans. A friend of his sent him a video from the October meeting barely passing the duck stamp funding. 

“As a farmer we implement all the conservation we can. We work with neighboring farmers for habitat. I’m an avid waterfowler, I am a lifetime license holder and it has been that way since I was 12. I want my kids to be able to waterfowl hunt,” Rambo said. “The money from our duck stamps goes up north and that is where our ducks come from. We can talk all day about what affects our duck hunting in Mississippi. Agriculture plays a role, farming practices in the midwest have changed. CRP contracts expired and grain prices went up. Lots of land dedicated to pothole region nesting went back into farmland. We can’t control that. What we can control is the continued support of Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl. Banding information shows ducks still come from up there to us. I think it is imperative we support that area with our money.”