U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan last week announced that USDA approved a federal disaster declaration to provide assistance for Minnesota farmers hurt by the shortage of animal feed.
USDA designated 20 counties as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by the combined effects of heavy rainfall followed by freezing temperatures and multiple periods of thawing and refreezing, resulting in winterkill that occurred from January 1 through May 15.
The announcement came after the lawmakers sent a letter to USDA, urging it to issue a disaster declaration.
Last year's drought, along with this year's late spring and heavy rains have led to exceptional losses to the alfalfa crop that Minnesota dairy and cattle producers rely on as a high-protein animal feed.
"The recent cases of extreme weather and resulting feed shortages have hurt too many farmers and ranchers throughout Minnesota," Klobuchar said. "This support will help dairy and cattle producers get through these challenging times and ensure our rural economies remain strong."
Franken noted that hard-working livestock producers shouldn't have to worry about feed shortages threatening their livelihoods.
"While I have pressed USDA for more robust relief, this will offer some help to producers whose operations are taking serious hits," he said.
Walz added that more work needs to be done to fully address the feed shortage.
The declaration designates Carver, Dakota, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Jackson, Le Sueur, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Rock, Scott, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington and Winona counties as primary disaster counties.
Anoka, Blue Earth, Chisago, Cottonwood, Hennepin, McLeod, Martin, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Ramsey, Sibley, Watonwan and Wright counties were designated contiguous disaster counties.
The declaration makes producers in these counties eligible for emergency loan assistance to help address crop losses and high feed costs.
Last month, lawmakers sent a letter to USDA calling for an emergency exemption to the November 1 restriction that would allow farmers to harvest a second crop or graze livestock on forages on prevent plant acres without penalty. In addition, the members requested emergency authorizations to allow for additional livestock grazing on Conservation Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program acres and assistance for producers to plant high forage value cover crops.