DC, June 25, 2004 (ENS): Extreme drought conditions
across the western half of the country have prompted
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to authorize emergency
grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres.
Veneman announced the emergency relief measure Thursday
to help farmers and ranchers and the livestock in distress.
"Emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program
acres will allow producers to provide additional feed
and forage for their livestock," she said.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a new area of
exceptional drought - the most severe form - was introduced
from southeastern Montana into western Nebraska during
The Conservation Reserve Program is in place to promote
the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air,
energy, plant and animal life. Under the program, producers
voluntarily retire environmentally sensitive cropland
for 10 to 15 years and receive payments from the federal
government for doing so.
To be enrolled in the CRP, land must either be highly
erodible, contribute to a serious water quality problem,
provide important wildlife habitat or provide substantial
environmental benefits if devoted to certain specific
conservation uses. Currently, 34.6 million acres are
enrolled in the program.
The Secretary of Agriculture may authorize emergency
grazing of CRP acreage in response to a drought or other
natural disaster. In addition, managed haying and grazing
of CRP acreage is allowed under certain conditions.
Thursday’s announcement authorizes emergency
grazing - including grazing during the nesting season
- of CRP acreage, in eligible counties only, until September
To be eligible, a county must have suffered at least
a 40 percent deviation from normal precipitation, or
be at a D3 or D4 level for drought as rated by the U.S.
Under today’s announcement, Farm Service Agency
state committees shall consult with the Natural Resources
Conservation Service state technical committees before
approving counties for emergency grazing during the
primary nesting season established for managed haying
After a county has been approved, eligible CRP participants
may submit emergency grazing applications at their local
Farm Service Agency office. CRP participants who do
not own or lease livestock may rent or lease their grazing
CRP annual rental payments made to participants will
be reduced by 10 percent for the areas grazed. This
reduction takes into account the extreme conditions
that are prompting this action and is scaled back from
the 25 percent reduction requirement that was in place
in recent years.
Haying or any other harvesting other than grazing will
not be permitted.