Hoeven: NRCS Wetland Acres Available for Grazing and Haying in Drought-Stricken Counties

Hoeven Met with ND Ranchers Today to Outline Drought Resources

BISMARCK, N.D. – Following a meeting today with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and ranchers, Senator John Hoeven announced that producers impacted by drought may hay or graze NRCS Wetland Restoration Acres. Ranchers should visit their county NRCS office to submit paperwork to access these acres, which are lands that farmers have enrolled in 30-year easements with NRCS under the Wetland Restoration Easement program.

Additionally, Hoeven said that he is also contacting USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to press him to open more CRP acres to haying or grazing, including conservation practices (CP) acres that are currently ineligible.

Hoeven continues pressing USDA for approval of emergency haying of CRP acres and is working with wildlife and conservation groups to secure support tobegin emergency haying in the state by July 15

“We had a productive discussion with our ranchers today about ways to assist them in weathering this drought,” said Hoeven. “NRCS wetland restoration acres are also available for haying and grazing. We will continue working with USDA to open up additional acres for grazing and haying.”

Hoeven today convened a roundtable with the directors of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and ranchers to outline options for producers facing drought across the state. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Hoeven is working to ensure ranchers have access to emergency measures to help them weather the drought and maintain their operations.

CRP Emergency Grazing and Haying

Following a letter from Hoeven and the delegation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently opened Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands for emergency grazing in counties experiencing drought conditions of D2 or higher on the U.S. Drought Monitor. The agency subsequently provided greater flexibility for grazers and opened CRP lands in all 53 North Dakota counties.

Eligible CRP participants can use the acreage for grazing their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the land. There will be no reductions to CRP annual rental payments for acres grazed. CRP contract holders who hay their acreage are able to donate their hay to livestock producers or may sell their hay with a 25 percent reduction in their annual rental payment. 

Additionally, Hoeven continues working to secure USDA approval for emergency haying of CRP acres in drought-stricken counties. The senator is pressing for haying approval this month to prevent the forage from losing its nutritional value. 

Livestock Forage Disaster Program

Hoeven recently announced that ranchers in counties experiencing drought in D3 or higher categories are immediately eligible for payments under the Livestock Forage Disaster program. For counties under D2 intensity, eligibility begins after eight consecutive weeks of drought. County information for North Dakota can be foundhere at the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) Emergency Assistance

The USDA has since designated counties in the state as natural disaster areas due to the drought, making additional assistance available for farm and ranch operators. This includes emergency loans through FSA.

·         These counties have been designated as primary natural disaster areas – Adams, Billings, Bowman, Burleigh, Divide, Dunn, Emmons, Grant, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Logan, McIntosh, McKenzie, McLean, Mercer, Morton, Mountrail, Oliver, Slope, Stark, Sioux, Ward and Williams

·         Counties designated as contiguous disaster counties – Burke, Dickey, Kidder, LaMoure, McHenry, Renville, Stutsman and Sheridan

Ranchers in these counties have eight months from the date of the disaster designation to apply. The senator encourages all affected ranchers to work with their local FSA county office to access the emergency assistance programs.