U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) has added a survey to his website asking South Dakota farmers and ranchers for their suggestions on changes that could be made to programs that would assist in dealing with this summer’s ongoing drought conditions. The National Climatic Data Center reported today that the U.S. is experiencing the worst drought in more than 55 years.
On July 10th, Senator Thune sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack requesting the release of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in South Dakota. Today, Senator Thune was notified that the USDA will allow emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP practices on or after August 2nd if a county meets the D2 Drought Level on the U.S. Drought Monitor and a request is made to the State Committee by the applicable Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committee. Prior to this change, the emergency haying and grazing could only be authorized if a county met the D3 Drought level.
The South Dakota State FSA Committee has delegated approval authority to the State Executive Director (SED). The U.S. Drought Monitor will release updated data on July 26th, and in the event that a county meets the D2 Drought level, producers could begin to apply immediately. However, haying and grazing could not begin prior to August 2nd, due to the regulatory requirement to preserve primary bird nesting and brood rearing habitat. As of July 10th, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 12 counties in South Dakota had reached the D2 Drought level.
“I am looking for input from agriculture producers across South Dakota as to how federal disaster assistance programs can be altered to best meet their needs during this difficult situation,” said Thune. “Across South Dakota I have seen fields continue to deteriorate due to lack of rain and high temperatures, and producers have had to liquidate livestock due to lack of grazing and feed. These conditions are only expected to get worse and I want to hear what ideas those who deal with the disaster first-hand may have to help alleviate some of the red-tape or bureaucratic requirements.”
During the 2008 Farm Bill, Senator Thune successfully fought for inclusion of livestock disaster programs, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Program, and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. Authority for these programs expired on October 1, 2011. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Thune made certain that continuation of these livestock disaster programs were included in the 2012 Farm Bill which passed the U.S. Senate (64-35) on June 21st. The bipartisan Senate-passed Farm Bill would make certain that these livestock programs would be effective from 2012 through the 2017 crop year. These livestock disaster programs are also included in the House Agriculture Committee’s bipartisan passed Farm Bill.
Congress has until September 30, 2012 to reach agreement on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill or will need to pass an extension of current Farm Bill programs, including possible retroactive livestock disaster programs.