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) announced it would immediately allow emergency haying and grazing on more than 450,000 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in South Dakota that are categorized as “environmentally sensitive” and up to this point have been off limits to emergency haying and grazing.
On June 15, 2017, Thune and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) asked USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to open these environmentally sensitive acres in the wake of the drought that is now plaguing nearly the entire state. Thune and Rounds also asked Perdue to open other non-environmentally sensitive CRP acres to emergency haying and grazing ahead of schedule, a request that was granted on July 10, 2017. As a result, emergency CRP haying and grazing on certain land began on July 16, 2017, two weeks earlier than normally allowed. Thune, in a letter, during a recent phone call with Secretary Perdue, and through other communication with USDA, has kept pressure on USDA to open these additional CRP acres as soon as possible.
“Today’s announcement means that USDA has used nearly every CRP option that’s available to assist South Dakota livestock producers who are suffering from these increasingly severe drought conditions,” said Thune.
“Over the last few weeks and months, Secretary Perdue has proven to be the leader that we all hoped he would be when the president nominated him,” continued Thune. “He has already visited South Dakota and has been accessible and willing to discuss issues with me that are important to South Dakota farmers and ranchers. His quick action on my recent requests has been welcome news to everyone who has been affected by the drought. I will continue to keep a close eye on drought conditions in the state and seek additional assistance when and where it is available.”
In June 2017, USDA approved Thune’s common-sense recommendation to reverse an earlier USDA decision that would have forced ranchers to destroy useable hay on CRP-enrolled acres that are subject to CRP mid-contract management in 2017. As a result of USDA’s decision, that hay can now be used to feed livestock in areas that are suffering from drought conditions.
USDA also granted Thune’s request to allow immediate access to emergency haying and 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 were made available for emergency haying and grazing on land enrolled in non-environmentally sensitive CRP practices. Today’s announcement would immediately release environmentally sensitive CRP acres in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana for emergency haying and grazing on all practices other than CP25 and CP42.
CRP participants who would like to hay or graze their CRP-enrolled land should contact their local Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service offices to complete necessary paperwork, obtain approval, and identify the areas they wish to hay or graze.