Emergency haying and grazing rules kick in

May 27, 2011
by DTN
Emergency haying and grazing rules kick in

Scorched grazing areas and flooded farmland continue to push cattle producers in many areas to the edge. In Texas alone, wildfires have destroyed more then 2 million acres of pasture and range.

In response, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) has encouraged USDA to release Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands for emergency haying and grazing. There are about 20 million acres enrolled in conservation practices that are eligible for emergency haying or grazing.

“Recent flooding and drought conditions have had major impacts on grazing lands across large portions of the country,” said Gene Schmidt, president of NACS. “Some producers in hard-hit areas are in desperate need of grazing acreage, and would benefit through the emergency use of CRP lands.”

This request falls under USDA’s “Emergency Haying and Grazing” program, which allows the agency to release land currently in the CRP program for this use. How much land is released will be determined by requests submitted from the county level Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices to the FSA State Committees. The state committees may approve emergency haying or grazing if it’s outside of the primary nesting season for wildlife. For grazing to be considered, the county has to be at a level 2 (D2) drought or above; for haying, at a level 3 (D3) drought or above. The U.S. Drought Monitor scale ranges from a D0 for abnormally dry conditions, to a D4 for exceptional drought.

The most recent drought monitor release showed drought conditions at the D2 level and above in portions of several states, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Percent of pasture and rangeland considered to be in good or fair condition across the entire U.S. was at a mere 24 percent. Percent considered to be in poor condition was at 48 percent (week of May 8, 2011). To see how your area is doing, go to the drought monitor at http://drought. unl.edu/.

Counties that have not reached the D2 level may still apply for emergency grazing or haying, but the state committees have to submit a request at the national level and meet certain eligibility requirements. That eligibility is based on the county suffering a 40 percent or greater loss in normal hay and pasture production. In this case, the loss does not have to be due strictly to drought, it can also be due to excessive moisture or flooding.

Landowners with CRP acreage who decide to hay or graze the land will have their program payment reduced 25 percent. The hay cannot be sold off these lands; and any haying or grazing rights leased require that the lease can’t exceed the applicable payment reduction.

The emergency use is for a specified period of time. Under state FSA committee determinations, emergency haying is authorized for one, single period up to 60 days; and emergency grazing for one, single period up to 120 days. Under national authority, these time periods may be lengthened depending on the situation.

At press time, the following 27 counties in Texas had received authorization for emergency grazing of CRP acres, beginning May 12, 2011: Armstrong, Borden, Carson, Castro, Collingsworth, Crosby, Deaf Smith, Dickens, Fisher, Floyd, Garza, Hale, Hansford, Haskell, Kent, Knox, Lipscomb, Lynn, Nolan, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Scurry, Sherman, Stonewall, Swisher and Wilbarger.

The following 12 counties in Kansas had also received authorization for emergency grazing of CRP acres:

Grant, Hamilton, Haskell, Kearny, Lane, Meade, Morton, Ness, Seward, Stafford, Stanton and Stevens.

Producers are encouraged to contact their county FSA offices for up-to-theminute information and details. — DTN