WASHINGTON, Aug. 8— Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) is modifying its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) policies to help those affected by sustained drought conditions.
"Many ranchers have been or will be forced to sell livestock due to drought and USDA will do what we can to help our farmers and ranchers during these challenging times," said Vilsack.

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider additional options to provide aid to producers struggling from prolonged drought conditions.

“I am pleased to have worked with USDA to act immediately to bring additional relief to farmers and ranchers across the country battling drought,” Roberts said. “Given the extreme conditions out there, the changes in policy just make sense.”

FSA is permitting farmers and ranchers in drought stricken states who have been approved for emergency grazing, including those in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, to extend the emergency grazing period to Oct. 31, 2011, without an additional payment reduction. The period normally allowed for emergency grazing lasts through Sept. 30, 2011.

Producers wishing to participate in emergency grazing must first request permission from the FSA county office by indicating the acreage to be grazed.

FSA will also 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 to 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 percent for those utilizing this option.

"We are eager to do all we can in the face of this drought crisis across the southern plains," said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson. "This has been one of the worst dry and hot spells since the Dust Bowl era of the '30s."

For further information about the Conservation Reserve Program and Emergency Haying and Grazing, producers are encouraged to visit their USDA Service Centers or go online to www.fsa.usda.gov. Search under Conservation Programs and Disaster Assistance.


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