Farm Groups File Amicus Brief on CRP

Hearing Thursday will determine whether critical feed use program will continue.

Published on: Jul 17, 2008

The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council have filed an amicus or "friend of the court" brief in response to the National Wildlife Federation's lawsuit on USDA's Critical Feed Use program that would allow grazing and haying on Conservation Reserve Program land.

USDA announced in late May a special, one-time hay and forage use of CRP ground for eligible producers after the primary nesting season for grass nesting birds. NFW filed a lawsuit last week gaining a temporary restraining order stopping such use until a hearing scheduled for Thursday, July 17. The United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Seattle, will hold a hearing regarding the "complaint for declaratory injunction" filed by NWF.

"Reversing the USDA decision at this late date would be the last straw for many cattle producers who are already on the brink of going out of business," say Andy Groseta, NCBA president. "With a continuing drought, historic feed costs and skyrocketing hay prices, cattle producers need this land to be able to feed their cattle as well as continue their land stewardship."

AFBF President Bob Stallman also voiced his concern about the severe economic hardship this injunction imposes on farmers and ranchers.

"More than 4,000 livestock producers relied on USDA's announcement about the new program and have already begun using their precious financial resources to prepare the land for haying and grazing," Stallman says. "It's important for the court to hear from farmers and ranchers about the harmful effects of this injunction, both since July 8 when the injunction was issued and going forward."

The program was a short term move that was fashioned to protect the environment and producers. USDA estimates that the initiative would provide about 18 million tons of hay. The brief the groups filed summarizes the stories of more than 25 farmers and ranchers who have moved cattle, dug wells, erected fences and hired labor to utilize the temporary grazing and haying opportunities provided by the critical feed use program.