Emergency grazing okayed for drought relief
United States Department of Agriculture
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced on May 22 the early authorization of emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in an effort to provide drought relief in areas hardest hit by drought conditions during the past year. The announcement was made so producers in eligible counties in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming could immediately participate in the program.
“The extreme drought has devastated many farmers and ranchers, especially in western states,” said Veneman. “We are announcing this emergency relief measure a month earlier than in previous drought years to provide immediate relief for producers when they need it most.”
CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land. This action will permit approved CRP participants to graze livestock on CRP acreage, providing supplemental forage to producers whose pastures have been negatively impacted by drought.
Generally, to be approved for emergency grazing, a county must have suffered at least a 40 percent loss of normal moisture and forage for the preceding four-month qualifying period. USDA has notified eligible counties that have been approved for grazing and will require CRP participants to submit applications with their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices upon approval. Grazing may be authorized until Aug. 31, 2002, or until disaster conditions no longer exist whichever comes first.
Only livestock operations located within approved counties are eligible for emergency grazing of CRP acreage. CRP participants who do not own or lease livestock may rent or lease the grazing privilege to an eligible livestock farmer located in an approved county.
CRP annual rental payments will be reduced 25 percent to account for the areas grazed. At least 25 percent of the CRP contract acreage must be left ungrazed for wildlife. Other restrictions and limitations also apply.
In addition to making forage available on CRP land, USDA is operating a range of programs to assist producers affected by drought or other natural disasters. These programs include:
– Federal Crop Insurance. Federal crop insurance provides indemnities for production and revenue losses. Program participation has increased sharply as a result of program improvements enacted in 2000, with over 80 percent of the nation’s eligible acreage enrolled in 2001 and a similar level expected this year.
– Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. For crops not covered by insurance, USDA operates the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Previously, this program provided assistance only for area-wide losses. The program was recently amended to eliminate the area loss requirement and now provides assistance for individual producer losses. The program covers loss of forage produced for animal consumption.
– The Emergency Conservation Program. The Emergency Conservation Program is available to assist producers in emergency water conservation, providing water to livestock and in rehabilitating farmland damaged by natural disaster.
– The Emergency Loan Program. The Emergency Loan Program makes low-interest loans available to producers with production and physical losses in areas designated by the President or the Secretary as disaster areas.
– Farm Bill Income Support Payments. In addition, the recently enacted Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 makes available direct and countercyclical payments to program crop producers regardless of their level of production.
For more information about emergency programs and assistance available due to drought conditions, contact local FSA county offices or go on the Web to: http://www.fsa.usda.gov
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.