U.S. Senators Tina Smith, John Thune Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Allow Emergency Haying During Severe Drought

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7/28/21]—With severe and worsening drought causing Upper Midwest cattle producers to run out of hay for their herds, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced bipartisan legislation to allow future emergency haying on federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land. 

Right now, emergency haying on CRP land is not allowed until after the primary nesting season, which ends August 1 in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. The Senators’ CRP Flexibility Act would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the tools to allow emergency haying on CRP acres before August 1 when certain conditions are met and in consultation with the state conservation experts. U.S. Reps. Angie Craig (D-MN 2) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) introduced a House companion bill. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and four other Minnesota House members support the legislation.

“Right now over 70 percent of Minnesota is experiencing a severe drought and it’s quickly worsening with the current hot weather,” said Sen. Smith. “This is devastating for our cattle producers, who are running out of hay to feed their herds. When severe droughts hit, the USDA should have the tools to allow farmers to access reserve land for haying. This will lessen the impact on the farm economy.”

“Unfortunately, almost every acre of South Dakota is currently experiencing drought, and we need to make sure USDA has the flexibility to improve producers’ access to greatly needed forage for their livestock during these difficult times,” said Sen. Thune. “As a longtime supporter of the Conservation Reserve Program, I’m pleased to introduce this commonsense measure to help producers meet their forage needs during weather-related emergencies. This legislation would build on my effort to increase CRP enrollment, which significantly benefits conservation efforts and wildlife habitat in our state.” 

“Severe drought conditions in Minnesota and across the country are impacting farmers and ranchers who were just beginning to recover from the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis,” said Rep. Craig. “Today, I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure USDA can create flexibility for farmers and ranchers, expand drought relief and protect our ag community during this difficult time.”

“The drought across the upper Midwest has created incredibly difficult conditions for Minnesota’s farmers and livestock producers,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “By authorizing emergency haying of Conservation Reserve Program lands, we are taking an important step to help farmers and ranchers feed their herds throughout droughts.” 

Sens. Smith and Thune’s legislation is also co-sponsored by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). Rep. Craig and Johnson’s bill is also supported by Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN 6), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN 7), Jim Hagedorn (R-MN 1), Pete Stauber (R-MN 8), and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND).