July 18, 2008
July 18, 2008 - A U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order last week that stopped emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. On Thursday, the judge ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Wildlife Federation to work out a compromise to allow limited haying and grazing while still protecting conservation.
Judge John C. Coughenour of the Western District of Washington, Seattle gave both sides until noon Tuesday, July 22, to work out elements of the compromise. He promised to issue an order by the end of next week implementing a modified version of the critical feed use program. The judge criticized the government's environmental impact analysis and part of the compromise may forbid further use of the program without first conducting an environmental review.
Late on July 8, the judge granted the order against the USDA and its Farm Service Agency to stop the Critical Feed Use provisions. The order, filed on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation and six of its affiliates, stopped USDA from processing or approving any additional CRP contract modifications that allow haying or grazing. It also ordered the USDA to tell those CRP participants already haying or grazing lands that they must remove cattle and stop haying operations immediately.
The temporary restraining order affects 24 million acres of CRP land that was opened to Critical Feed Use provisions by the USDA on May 27 in response to the rising feed prices for livestock. The injunction does not affect CRP haying and grazing plans issued before June 2, 2007; it does not affect haying and grazing in presidential disaster areas; and it does not affect new provisions and regulations being developed for targeted grazing under the 2008 Farm Bill.
Several states had begun opening up their CRP acres as of July 2, including Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Colorado was set to begin activity July 15. Texas has 583,000 acres available for sign-up in the program, followed by Colorado with 253,000 acres, Oklahoma with 210,000 acres and New Mexico with 177,000 acres.