- Farmers and ranchers affected by drought may use CRP acres for emergency haying or grazing.
- Appropriate protections must be maintained.
- CRP rental payment reduction changed from 25% to 10%.
AS severe drought conditions persist in certain regions of the country, Juan M. Garcia, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA), announced Aug. 5 the availability of temporary assistance to livestock producers through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Under limited conditions, farmers and ranchers affected by drought will be allowed to use certain additional CRP acres for haying or grazing under emergency conditions while maintaining safeguards to the conservation and wildlife benefits provided by CRP.
In addition, USDA announced that the reduction in CRP annual rental payments related to emergency haying or grazing will change from 25% to 10%. Further, the sale of hay will be allowed under certain conditions.
These measures take into consideration hay quality losses and will provide needed assistance to livestock producers, the agency said.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), who called for this important feed option in a letter last month, said, "I am pleased USDA acted so that livestock producers will have this option to help them make it through this incredibly tough time."
Garcia said this local approach provides the appropriate flexibility and ability to tailor safeguards specifically to regional conditions.
States must adhere to specific guidelines to ensure that additional haying and grazing still maintain the important environmental and wildlife benefits of CRP. These safeguards will be determined through consultations with the state conservationist, state fish and wildlife agency and stakeholders that comprise the state technical committee.
FSA state offices have already opened haying, grazing or both in 432 counties in response to natural disasters this year.
Given the continued multiyear drought in some regions, forage available for livestock already has been substantially reduced. The latest action from USDA will allow lands that are not typically eligible for emergency haying and grazing to be used with appropriate protections.
The expanded haying and grazing will be allowed only after the local primary nesting season, which already has passed in many areas. Especially sensitive lands such as stream buffers are generally not eligible.
FSA encouraged all farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA service center to report crop damage or livestock losses. In addition, USDA urged livestock producers to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as feed purchased due to lost supplies.