USDA opens land, sends staff to drought-stricken North Dakota
Responding to a drought, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue authorized the use of additional Conservation Reserve Program lands for emergency grazing and haying in Montana and North Dakota last week.
USDA is adding the ability for farmers and ranchers in these areas to hay and graze CRP wetland and buffer practices, the department said in a news release.
“We are working to immediately address the dire straits facing drought-stricken farmers and ranchers,” Perdue said. “USDA is fully considering and authorizing any federal programs or related provisions we have available to meet the immediate needs of impacted producers.”
USDA is sending additional Farm Service Agency staff to western North Dakota to assist with the drought relief effort, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told the Red River Farm Network.
“It’s great to see USDA proactively getting additional personnel out to western North Dakota in order to make sure they’re not caught flat-footed,” Cramer said. “The last thing we need is a large backlog when producers are moving as quickly as possible to begin haying additional CRP lands.”
“For CRP practices previously announced, including those authorized today, Secretary Perdue is allowing this emergency action during and after the primary nesting season, where local drought conditions warrant in parts of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota that have reached D2, or ‘severe,’ drought level or greater according to the U.S. Drought Monitor,” USDA said.
“This includes counties with any part of their border located within 150 miles of authorized counties within the three states, and may extend into Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wyoming. All emergency grazing must end Sept. 30, 2017 and emergency haying must end Aug. 31, 2017.”
Perdue said that “epic dry conditions … coupled with an intense heatwave have left pastures in poor or very poor condition resulting in the need for ranchers to, at best, supplement grain and hay and at worst, sell their herds.”