USDA Extends Emergency Grazing

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today extended the window for emergency livestock grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for farmers and ranchers who are impacted by drought in 30 states. The traditional deadline for emergency grazing on CRP acres is September 30.

"Extremely dry weather conditions have created real hardships for farmers and ranchers in many parts of the country this year," said Johanns. "This emergency relief measure will provide feed and forage to producers who have lost hay stocks and grazing lands because of drought."

The 30 eligible states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

State FSA committees and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state technical committees must agree on the need for the emergency grazing extensions before they are finalized. Once approved, producers in the 30 states may graze on CRP land until the following dates:

October 20, 2006 - Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin;
November 10, 2006 - Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Missouri, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming; and
November 30, 2006 - Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Emergency haying of CRP acreage in these states ends Sept. 30, 2006.

In mid-July, USDA announced the expansion of eligible CRP acreage for emergency grazing and haying in Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. The expanded area radiates 150 miles out from any county approved for emergency haying and grazing in any above-mentioned state.

Additionally, USDA announced that CRP rental payments will be reduced by only 10 percent instead of the standard 25 percent on CRP lands that are grazed in 2006.

USDA may allow producers to graze or hay on CRP acreage under certain conditions such as during times of drought or other natural disasters. Farmers and ranchers can graze no more than 75 percent of the stocking rate. They also can only graze 75 percent of a field or contiguous field that is enrolled for wildlife habitat. CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land.

USDA has other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the emergency conservation program, emergency loans and federal crop insurance.