Northern Plains Drought Worsens, USDA Responds with Expanded Emergency Federal Program Measures on Conservation Reserve Program Acres

As conditions deteriorate and drought expands across much of the Northern Plains, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering assistance to farmers and ranchers through numerous federal farm program provisions and continues to monitor the situation to ensure all viable program flexibilities are offered to producers.  Today, USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) acting State Executive Director in South Dakota, acting SED Jamie White, announced that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has authorized emergency haying on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands beginning July 16 through Aug. 30, 2017 for counties in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota designated as D2 or greater on the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Similar to the authorization for Emergency Grazing announced last month, this authorization includes any county with any part of its border located within 150 miles of a county eligible for emergency haying of CRP based on the U.S. drought monitor.

Increased demand for hay has further depleted already low levels of hay stock.  As of May 1, 2017, Montana and North Dakota reported the lowest hay stock since 2013 and since 2014 in South Dakota.

“We are offering any and all USDA program options that will provide farmers and ranchers relief from the devastating impacts of prolonged drought,” said acting SED White.

Landowners interested in emergency haying of CRP acres should contact their local FSA office and meet with their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff to obtain a modified conservation plan to include emergency haying. Not all CRP practices qualify for emergency haying. July 15 marks the end of the Primary Nesting Season in Montana. Due to the severe drought conditions, authorization for emergency haying may begin July 16 in North Dakota and South Dakota. Individual conservation plans will take into consideration wildlife needs.

Eligible CRP participants can hay their acreage for their own use or may grant another producer use of CRP land for haying purposes.  There will be no CRP annual rental payment reductions assessed for acres hayed under this emergency authority.

According to acting SED White, this emergency CRP haying authorization is an added resource to an extensive portfolio of drought assistance programs and emergency provisions offered by USDA agencies and currently available to eligible producers having a qualifying drought loss or related need.

Emergency CRP Grazing – In June, Secretary Perdue authorized emergency grazing of CRP acres during the primary nesting season in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota in counties indicated as D2 or greater on the U.S. Drought Monitor.  This authorization was further expanded to include any county with any part of its border located within 150 miles of a county designated as level “D2 Drought – Severe” or higher according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Grazing is authorized through Sept. 30, 2017 unless conditions improve.  In South Dakota, 977,553 acres are currently enrolled under CRP.
FSA Farm Loan Livestock Physical Control Requirement Flexibility – USDA will authorize up to a 12 month exemption to the FSA farm loan requirement that borrowers maintain physical control of livestock during the term of the loan. This exemption will allow livestock producers the option of sending livestock to feedlots, drylots or otherwise relocate livestock to locations where feed, forage and water needs can be met.  FSA has 4870 direct loans totaling 408 million dollars in South Dakota.
Emergency Loan Program – Available to producers with agriculture operations located in a county under a primary or contiguous Secretarial Disaster designation. These low interest loans help producers recover from production and physical losses.

These and a number of other disaster assistance programs are available to farmers and ranchers. For more information on disaster assistance programs and loans visit www.fsa.usda.gov/disasteror contact your local FSA Office. To find your local FSA county office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

USDA Authorizes Additional Flexibilities for Producers in Northern Great Plains

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2017 – On June 23 Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue authorized emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres during the primary nesting season in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana in the counties meeting D2 or greater, as indicated by the US Drought Monitor. Since that time the drought has continued to deepen and the forecast is for hot, dry weather in the upcoming week in the northern plains.  As such, the Secretary is authorizing emergency grazing of CRP for any county in which any part of its border lies within 150 miles of a county approved for emergency grazing of CRP.

In addition, for any county in which any part of its border lies within 150 miles of any county approved for emergency grazing of CRP, USDA will allow CRP contract holders who hay their acreage according to their mid-management conservation plan to donate their hay to livestock producers. CRP contract holders still have the ability to sell their hay with a 25-percent reduction in their annual rental payment as they’ve been fully authorized to do in the past.

Emergency haying is not authorized at this time. The Secretary will continue to monitor conditions and will consider expanding emergency authority if conditions worsen.

Eligible CRP participants can use the acreage for grazing their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage. There will be no CRP annual rental payment reductions assessed for acres grazed.

A map displaying counties approved for CRP emergency grazing and the donation of hay under mid-contract management authority will be available at:

https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/emergency-haying-and-grazing/index

To take advantage of the emergency grazing provisions, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.  To find your local USDA Service Center visit http://offices.usda.gov.