On July 20th, 2017, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is authorizing the use of additional Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands for emergency grazing and haying in and around portions of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota affected by severe drought. USDA is adding the ability for farmers and ranchers in these areas to hay and graze CRP wetland and buffer practices.
“We are working to immediately address the dire straits facing drought-stricken farmers and ranchers,” said Perdue. “USDA is fully considering and authorizing any federal programs or related provisions we have available to meet the immediate needs of impacted producers.”
For CRP practices previously announced, including those authorized today, Secretary Perdue is allowing this emergency action during and after the primary nesting season, where local drought conditions warrant in parts of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota that have reached D2, or “severe”, drought level or greater according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This includes counties with any part of their border located within 150 miles of authorized counties within the three states, and may extend into Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wyoming. All emergency grazing must end Sept. 30, 2017 and emergency haying must end Aug. 31, 2017.
The Secretary said that epic dry conditions, as high as D4 in some areas, coupled with an intense heatwave have left pastures in poor or very poor condition resulting in the need for ranchers to, at best, supplement grain and hay and at worst, sell their herds.
Landowners interested in emergency haying or grazing of CRP acres should contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and meet with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff to obtain a modified conservation plan to include emergency haying/grazing. Individual conservation plans will take into consideration wildlife needs. CRP participants are reminded that a certain percentage of fields must be left unhayed or ungrazed.
Additional information about the counties approved for emergency haying and grazing and the eligible CRP practices in this area is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/emergency-hayandgraze.