Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — 
Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), yesterday sent the following letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to request the release of an additional 445,000 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres enrolled in wetlands and other practices for emergency haying and grazing in South Dakota. Thune’s request came after speaking with leaders of several wildlife and conservation organizations about the urgency of opening the continuous CRP wetlands practices for emergency haying and grazing. 
July 31, 2012
Secretary Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
This letter is a follow up to my July 6, 2012 letter in which I requested that you make as many acres as possible of the 1.1 million acres in South Dakota enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) available for emergency haying and grazing due to the growing drought situation.
I appreciate that to date you have released certain CRP practices for emergency haying and grazing beginning after August 1st  that are located in counties considered “abnormally dry” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  This includes all counties in South Dakota and will allow the release of about 550,000 acres in the state.
Unfortunately, the hay and grazing shortages and drought are of such severe magnitude that additional haying and grazing is desperately needed.
More than 445,000 additional acres are available in South Dakota that are enrolled in CRP practices not yet released.  I strongly urge you to consider the release of these CRP acres in addition to those released earlier for emergency haying and grazing.  I understand these CRP acres are considered more environmentally and wildlife habitat sensitive and include duck nesting habitat as well as farmable wetlands practices.
Earlier this week I personally spoke with Larry Schweiger, President of the National Wildlife Federation; Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited; and Dave Nomsen, Vice-President of Legislation for Pheasants Forever, as well as the current President of the American Wildlife and Conservation Partners, a coalition of 42 wildlife and conservation organizations, regarding the release of additional CRP acres for emergency haying and grazing.
After explaining the desperate need for additional forage and hay in our discussions, I am pleased to inform you that I was assured by these individuals that their organizations would support opening the more sensitive CRP acres to emergency haying and grazing for 2012 only.  
Also, I support the study the National Wildlife Federation requests in its July 30th letter to the Farm Service Agency Administrator of the resulting impacts of emergency haying and grazing of CRP to gain a better understanding of the implications of such use for soil, water, and wildlife resources.
Your previous actions in releasing CRP acres for emergency haying and grazing after August 1st are an important first step; however, I strongly encourage you to open the additional land enrolled in the remaining CRP practices as well for emergency haying and grazing. 
Doing so would benefit not only the livestock producers who have very limited disaster assistance available to them, but also the future of the CRP as I believe more producers would enroll knowing that this land can be utilized in times of extreme drought and feed shortage emergencies.
Thank you for your consideration of my request. 
John Thune
United States Senate