USDA’s Emergency Authorization Will Help Livestock Producers During Drought

WASHINGTON, D.C. [8/5/21]—In response to the severe and worsening drought causing Upper Midwest cattle producers to run out of hay for their herds, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced that producers can now request haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in 79 Minnesota counties. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authorized the change on Wednesday.

The senators said that Minnesota counties are approved for emergency haying and grazing due to drought conditions on a county-by-county basis, when a county is designated as level “D2 Drought - Severe” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. FSA provides a weekly, online update of eligible counties here

“The droughts across Minnesota have created incredibly difficult conditions for farmers and livestock producers,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “This announcement is a step in the right direction as we work to ensure the USDA’s policies meet the needs of Minnesota’s rural communities.”

“The severe drought in Minnesota is devastating for our cattle producers, who are running out of hay to feed their herds,” said Sen. Smith. “I am glad the USDA has authorized emergency haying and grazing of CRP land.”

Producers interested in emergency haying or grazing of CRP acres must notify their FSA county office before starting any activities. This includes producers accessing CRP acres held by someone else. To maintain contract compliance, producers must have their conservation plan modified by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Klobuchar and Smith have fought to help Minnesota ag during the drought and pandemic. In July they sent a letter asking the department to consider authorizing emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land to aid livestock producers in areas affected by the drought. In July Senator Smith also introduced the CRP Flexibility Act, with Sen. Klobuchar as an original cosponsor, to allow future emergency haying on federal Conservation Reserve Program land. 

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