WASHINGTON, July 10, 2017 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today gave the go-ahead to conduct emergency haying on Conservation Reserve Program lands to help provide feed for livestock in drought-stricken areas of Montana and North and South Dakota.

“Because of the rapidly worsening drought and increasing degradation of existing forage, the Secretary is authorizing emergency haying beginning July 16,” the Farm Service Agency said in a notice. Farmers typically would be allowed to start haying on Aug. 1. The notice applies to certain counties in the three states that are suffering through D2 drought conditions or worse, as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor, and counties located in a 150-mile buffer.

The approval came just after the United States Cattlemen’s Association sent a letter to Perdue requesting authorizing emergency haying on CRP lands. “USDA immediately responded with the authorization, and went beyond the initial ask to also include up to 150 miles beyond the D2 region,” USCA said in a release. 

USCA President Kenny Graner, who hails from Mandan, North Dakota, noted that emergency grazing is still not immediately available to many producers in these regions due to fencing and watering needs. He said his organization applauds USDA's recognition of that fact in today's announcement. 

“Making use of these vital grounds while there is still relative feed value left is crucial to keeping herds solvent through the coming winter,” Graner said.

USCA Secretary Whitney Klasna from Lambert, Montana noted that in many places, the upland bird population that nests on CRP lands have already left their nests and are on the move, and are more than capable of moving safely out of the way of haying equipment.

“We have already moved our cows onto pastures that we typically reserve for late summer and early fall grazing. Our stock dams are drying up and we will have a well driller out this week to drill a new well for stock water. The forecast shows no relief, with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees. The extended forecast shows no chance of moisture, meaning we are only one lightning strike away from a big disaster, and what hay we do have left is burning up on our CRP lands. Today's announcement will provide our operation with the tools we need to take care of our stock through these especially difficult times.” Klasna said.

Reaction from lawmakers in the affected states was swift and complimentary. In the Senate, South Dakota Republican John Thune noted that while this only gives producers an additional two weeks, but “when faced with conditions as severe as they currently are, every single day matters.” Thune says he spoke with Perdue over the weekend as he traveled through affected areas in South Dakota.

North Dakota’s senators – Republican John Hoeven and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp –  responded in kind, saying they were glad to see USDA act to assist their state’s producers.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said the announcement means “North Dakota producers have a better chance to sustain their core herds and make it through this terrible drought. With all options on the table for ranchers, all we can do is continue to pray for better weather forecasts ahead."

South Dakota Republican Rep. Kristi Noem thanked Perdue for taking action, saying producers in her state “already face a severe feed crisis, and if conditions are left to worsen without further relief, livestock producers could lose another essential source of feed.”


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