The USDA Farm Service Agency has modified its Conservation Reserve Program policies to help those affected by sustained drought conditions.
The policy changes influence FSA rules governing emergency grazing. The period normally allowed for emergency grazing would last through Sept. 30. But FSA is permitting farmers and ranchers in drought-stricken states who have been approved for emergency grazing to extend the emergency grazing period through Oct. 31 this year, without an additional payment reduction.
This includes farmers and ranchers in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.
Producers wishing to participate in emergency grazing must first request permission from their local FSA county office by indicating the acreage to be grazed.
As a second condition designed to help livestock producers, FSA will allow producers nationwide to utilize harvested hay from expiring CRP acres when those acres are being prepared for fall-seeded crops. Prior to this modification, all mechanically harvested hay was required to be destroyed. This change enables livestock producers to feed the hay that is mechanically harvested to their own livestock—or sell or donate hay. Consistent with existing policy for managed or emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acres, rental payments will be reduced by 25% for those utilizing this option.
For more information about the Conservation Reserve Program and Emergency Haying and Grazing, producers can visit their local USDA Service Center or go online to www.fsa.usda.gov and then search under Conservation Programs and Disaster Assistance.
"We are eager to do all we can in the face of this drought crisis across the Southern Plains," says FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson. "This has been one of the worst dry and hot spells since the Dust Bowl era of the '30s."
"We continue to do all we can to help thousands of farmers and ranchers in the southwestern United States who are struggling with the drought," says U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.