Aug 6 - As severe drought conditions persist in certain regions throughout the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency Administrator Juan M. Garcia has announced temporary assistance to livestock producers through FSA's Conservation Reserve Program. Under limited conditions, farmers and ranchers affected by drought will be allowed to use certain additional CRP acres for haying or grazing under emergency conditions while maintaining safeguards to the conservation and wildlife benefits provided by CRP. In addition, USDA announced that the reduction to CRP annual rental payments related to emergency haying or grazing will be reduced from 25 percent to 10 percent. Further, the sale of hay will be allowed under certain conditions. These measures take into consideration the quality losses of the hay and will provide needed assistance to livestock producers.
"Beginning today, state FSA offices are authorized, under limited conditions, to expand opportunities for haying and grazing on certain additional lands enrolled in CRP," said Garcia. "This local approach provides both the appropriate flexibility and ability to tailor safeguards specific to regional conditions. States must adhere to specific guidelines to ensure that additional haying and grazing still maintains the important environmental and wildlife benefits of CRP. These safeguards will be determined through consultation with the state conservationist, state fish and wildlife agency and stakeholders that comprise the state technical committee."
CRP is a voluntary program that provides producers annual rental payments on their land in exchange for planting resource-conserving vegetation on cropland to help prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitat and improve the environment. CRP acres enrolled under certain practices can already be used for emergency haying and grazing during natural disasters to provide much-needed feed to livestock. FSA state offices have already opened haying, grazing or both in 432 counties in response to natural disaster this year.
Given the continued multi-year drought in some regions, forage for livestock is already substantially reduced. This will allow lands that are not typically eligible for emergency haying and grazing to be used with appropriate protections to maintain the CRP environmental and wildlife benefits. The expanded haying and grazing will only be allowed following the local primary nesting season, which already has passed in many areas. Especially sensitive lands such as stream buffers are generally not eligible.
FSA also has taken action under the Emergency Conservation Program to authorize additional expenditures related to drought response to be eligible for cost share, including connection to rural water systems and installation of permanent pipelines. In addition, given the limited budgetary resources and better long term benefits, FSA has increased the maximum cost share rates for permanent practices relative to temporary measures.
FSA encourages all farmers and ranchers to contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Center to report damage to crops or livestock loss. In addition, USDA reminds livestock producers to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as feed purchased due to lost supplies.
For further information about CRP program benefits and regulations, go online to www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.