USDA is expanding the Conservation Reserve Program acreage eligible for emergency haying and graying for livestock producers in states that have been affected by this summer's ongoing drought.
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner also announced that the CRP rental payments in those states would be reduced by only 10 percent instead of the standard 25 percent when CRP lands are grazed in 2006.
“Drought conditions have created serious hardships for many farmers and ranchers in the Great Plains and other areas across the country,” said Conner. “I'm pleased to announce that USDA is expanding the CRP acreage open for emergency practices, such as haying and grazing, to provide relief for producers at a time when it is very much needed.”
He said the announcement applies to producers in Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
Farm-state congressmen have been asking USDA to announce an emergency haying and grazing program to help livestock producers from eligible counties obtain needed hay or forage. The expanded area radiates 150 miles out from any approved county.
North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad wrote to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns on July 7, asking him to provide increased disaster assistance to producers in his state since Congress has been unwilling to provide a formal assistance program.
“At this point in time, I can report that conditions are substantially worse than I had expected,” said Conrad, referring to a tour he made of the southern part of his state. “Crop and forage production are likely to be reduced well below the level achieved in 2004, when another drought caused significant economic losses to producers in North Dakota.
“Livestock water shortages are becoming a very real challenge for those ranchers who are trying to avoid a forced sale of their livestock. For many counties it is already too late for rain to reduce the impact of the drought and the long-term weather forecasts suggest it will only get worse and spread to additional areas.”
Conner said producers should contact their county Farm Service Agency office to obtain details about the expanded CRP emergency program.
For convenience of CRP participants and the public, the FSA will post a map of counties approved for emergency haying and grazing with an approximate 150-mile radius to its Web site. To view the site, producers may click on “Conservation” at www.fsa.usda.gov.
The CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land. This action will permit approved CRP participants to cut hay or graze livestock on CRP acreage, providing supplemental forage to producers whose pastures have been adversely affected by drought.
To be approved for emergency haying or grazing, a county must be listed as a level “D3 Drought — Extreme” or greater, or have suffered at least a 40 percent loss of normal moisture and forage for the preceding four-month qualifying period.
State FSA committees are reminded they may authorize emergency haying or grazing of CRP in counties currently listed as level D3 drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. CRP participants should submit applications with their local USDA Farm Service Agency offices upon approval.
Livestock producers in counties approved for emergency haying or grazing assistance may purchase hay or conduct emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acreage from CRP participants (in the expanded area) willing to provide hay or haying and grazing.
Livestock producers in counties approved for emergency haying or grazing assistance must certify they are an eligible livestock producer in an eligible county approved for emergency haying and grazing and that they are requesting emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acreage from another eligible CRP participant in the expanded area who is willing to provide hay or grazing.
The primary nesting and brood rearing season of the state where the land to be hayed or grazed is located will be respected. For example, a portion of Minnesota is within the 150-mile range of North Dakota counties approved for emergency haying and grazing. Minnesota's nesting season ends Aug. 1. Livestock producers in North Dakota counties approved for emergency haying and grazing and who wish to hay or graze CRP acreage in Minnesota may begin Aug. 2.
Only livestock operations located within approved counties are eligible for emergency haying or grazing of CRP acreage. CRP participants who do not own or lease livestock may rent or lease the grazing privilege to an eligible livestock farmer located in an approved county.
For all land enrolled in CRP that has been approved for emergency haying and grazing, the Farm Service Agency will reduce the payment reduction from 25 percent, which was announced earlier, to 10 percent. This 10-percent payment reduction will be assessed based on the number of acres actually hayed or grazed times the CRP annual rental rate times 10 percent. CRP participants, who prepaid the 25 percent payment reduction, will have the difference refunded.
In addition to making forage available on CRP land, USDA is operating a range of programs to assist producers affected by drought or other natural disasters.
More information on emergency haying and grazing is available at local FSA offices and online at: www.fsa.usda.gov, click on Conservation.