cattle grazing in tall grass USDA photo by Keith Weller.

USDA offers greater flexibility as drought worsens

Agency opened CRP lands to grazing for any county that lies within 150 miles of county already approved for emergency grazing.

On June 23, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue authorized emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres during the primary nesting season in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana in the counties meeting D2 drought or greater, as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Since that time, the drought has continued to deepen, and the forecast is for hot, dry weather in the upcoming week in the northern Plains. As such, the secretary is authorizing emergency grazing of CRP land for any county if any part of its border lies within 150 miles of a county already approved for emergency CRP grazing.

In addition, for a county in which any part of its border lies within 150 miles of any county approved for emergency CRP grazing, USDA will allow CRP contract holders who hay their acreage according to their mid-management conservation plan to donate their hay to livestock producers. CRP contract holders still have the ability to sell their hay with a 25% reduction in their annual rental payment, as they’ve been fully authorized to do in the past.

Emergency haying is not authorized at this time. Perdue will continue to monitor conditions and will consider expanding emergency authority if conditions worsen, USDA said in a statement.

Eligible CRP participants can use the acreage for grazing their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage. There will be no CRP annual rental payment reductions assessed for acres grazed.

“As South Dakota’s drought conditions continue to expand and worsen, ranchers need to be given as much flexibility as possible,” Rep. Kristi Noem (R., S.D.) said. “I’ve been in close contact with Secretary Perdue about the conditions and the effects the drought has had on South Dakota producers. I’m hopeful today’s announcement will offer many some added relief.”

According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor data, 90% of South Dakota is experiencing drought to some degree, including areas in every county.

A map displaying counties approved for CRP emergency grazing and the donation of hay under mid-contract management authority will be available at:

To take advantage of the emergency grazing provisions, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center. To find your local USDA Service Center visit

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