U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted a request to allow emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres beginning July 16, which is more than two weeks ahead of schedule. These CRP-enrolled acres are typically not available to haying and grazing until August 1. Today’s authorization includes any county with any part of its border that is located within 150 miles of a county that has been approved for emergency CRP haying. USDA’s announcement also means that no CRP rental payment will be assessed for CRP emergency haying or grazing.
“Two weeks might not sound like a long time, but when faced with conditions as severe as they currently are, every single day matters,” said Thune. “When I most recently spoke with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue this weekend, I was traveling through a hard-hit drought area in South Dakota. I was able to give him as close to a first-hand account as possible of what folks are dealing with in the state. I’m grateful that Secretary Perdue has taken such quick action on these requests to help livestock producers through a difficult time, and I know they are, too.”
On June 29, USDA approved Thune’s common-sense recommendation to reverse an earlier decision that would have forced ranchers to destroy useable hay on CRP-enrolled acres that are subject to CRP mid-contract management. As a result of USDA’s decision, that hay can now be used as feed for livestock in areas that are suffering from drought conditions.
USDA also granted Thune’s request to allow immediate access to emergency grazing on CRP-enrolled acres for any county in which any part of its border lies within 150 miles of a county that has been approved for emergency grazing of CRP. That means all of South Dakota and North Dakota, two-thirds of Montana, half of Wyoming and Nebraska, and portions of Iowa and Minnesota are now available for emergency grazing on certain CRP land.
Thune is still working with USDA to make nearly 500,000 CRP acres in South Dakota that are categorized as “environmentally sensitive” and currently off limits available for emergency haying and grazing.