Legislation reintroduced Tuesday would give the Department of Agriculture legal certainty to adjust haying and grazing dates of cover crops.

The Feed Emergency Enhancement During Disasters Act, which was originally introduced in 2019 by Reps. Angie Craig, D-Minn., and Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., was dropped Tuesday in the House and Senate with a slight tweak from the original legislation.

The 2019 bill sought to allow USDA to move up a Nov. 1 date for the haying and grazing of cover crops (existing law threatens producers with a crop insurance penalty for an early harvest) as parts of the Midwest battled an unseasonably wet year that led to skyrocketing prevent plant acreage. After debate about whether or not USDA had the authority to make the change administratively, the department ultimately decided that it did and moved that deadline up to the beginning of September.

Now, the reintroduced bill is seeking to backstop USDA’s authority legislatively as well as offer suggestions to tweak the department’s annual approach to haying and grazing.

“I think the value of having this in statute is it makes it clear to future administrations that this should be a tool in their toolbox,” Johnson said in an interview with Agri-Pulse. “2019 is not going to be the last wet year on record, and so having this in statute is, I think, an important message that Congress can send this and future administrations.”

Under the new bill, introduced again by Craig and Johnson in the House and North Dakota Republican John Hoeven and Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the Senate, USDA’s Risk Management Agency would have the authority to change the dates on an emergency basis but would also be tasked with creating annual dates for different regions of the country.

“Obviously the date when that forage would have some salvage value is different in the South than it would be in the Great Plains,” Johnson said.

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