August 15, 2004
August, 2004 - Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman authorized on June 24, 2004, emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to provide relief for farmers and ranchers in qualifying areas suffering from this year's extreme drought.
"Emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program Acres will allow producers to provide additional feed and forage for their livestock," says Veneman.
Much of the western half of the country has been impacted by severe drought conditions. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a new area of exceptional drought, the most severe form, was introduced from southeastern Montana into western Nebraska during mid-June. Until recently, occasionally hot weather and short-term dryness in those areas continued to aggravate the effects of a multi-year drought.
The secretary of agriculture may authorize emergency grazing of CRP acreage in response to a drought or similar natural disaster. In addition, managed haying and grazing of CRP acreage is allowed under certain conditions.
The June 24 announcement authorizes emergency grazing, including grazing during the nesting season, of CRP acreage in eligible countries only until Sept. 30, 2004. To be eligible, a county must have suffered at least a 40-percent deviation from normal precipitation, or be at a D3 or D4 level for drought as rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
After a county has been approved, eligible CRP participants may submit emergency grazing applications at their local FSA office. CRP participants who do not own or lease livestock may rent or lease their grazing privileges. CRP annual rental payments made to participants will be reduced by a commensurate 10 percent for the areas grazed. This reduction takes into account the extreme conditions that are prompting this action and is scaled back from the 25-percent reduction requirement that was in place in recent years. Haying or any other harvesting other than grazing is not permitted at this time.
USDA has a Web site for producers to list information concerning the need for hay or the availability of hay for sale. The address for USDA's Hay Net Web site is www.fsa.usda.gov/haynet
As indicated, haying is not currently authorized. However, in qualifying counties, emergency haying will be authorized after the end of the established primary nesting season for the area with the same payment reduction of 10 percent of the annual rental payment.
CRP protects natural resources and improves the environment. Under CRP, producers voluntarily retire environmentally sensitive cropland for 10 to 15 years. Land to be enrolled must be either highly erodible, contribute to a serious water quality problem, provide important wildlife habitat or provide substantial environmental benefits if devoted to certain specific conservation uses.
A total of 34.6 million acres are currently enrolled in the program.