Hoeven: USDA Moves Up Haying and Grazing for Cover Crops to September 1

Producers in 23 North Dakota Counties are Eligible

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) agreed to move up the date for the haying and grazing of cover crops to September 1 in 23 counties with a significant number of prevented plant acres. Hoeven recently met with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on the issue and outlined the importance of providing producers with this flexibility.

“Given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our farmers and ranchers, we need to do all we can to help our producers weather the challenges,” said Hoeven. “We appreciate USDA providing some flexibility on the haying and grazing date that will enable more producers to utilize cover crops on prevented plant acres. Cover crops are an important tool that helps to ensure these acres are better maintained.” 

Eligible counties include: Barnes, Benson, Bottineau, Cass, Dickey, Eddy, Foster, Grand Forks, Griggs, Kidder, LaMoure, McIntosh, Nelson, Ramsey, Ramsom, Rolette, Sargent, Sheridan, Steele, Stutsman, Towner, Traill and Wells. RMA kept the November 1 haying and grazing date for the remaining counties.

Hoeven has urged USDA to provide flexibility for haying and grazing due to the high number of prevent plant acres in North Dakota. The senator has raised the issue with USDA officials, including Secretary Perdue and RMA Administrator Martin Barbre, calling for greater flexibility given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and to encourage the greater use of cover crops, which help to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health, weed suppression and moisture retention. In June, Hoeven also joined a bipartisan letter with Senator John Thune requesting greater flexibility to harvest cover crops. 

“Between the incredible weather challenges and the market impacts of the COVID pandemic, these have been difficult times for our state’s cattle ranchers,” said Dan Rorvig, a McVille, N.D., cow-calf producer and North Dakota Stockmen’s Association president. “We appreciate RMA’s decision to grant some flexibility for the utilization of cover crops on prevent plant acres, which will be helpful in addressing some of these issues, and the senator’s steadfast efforts in carrying our request to the decision-makers.”

Low commodity prices, a backlog of slaughter-ready cattle, and historically high prevented plant acreage have created major challenges for many North Dakota producers. The arbitrary Nov. 1 haying and grazing date on prevented plant acres would have made a bad situation even worse. USDA’s decision to move that date to Sept. 1 in some counties will provide relief to ranchers struggling to meet their feed and forage needs. We appreciate Sen. Hoeven’s work to secure this important flexibility,” said Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmers Union President

“We’re pleased to have some relief for those farmers and ranchers who were adversely impacted by the weather events of last fall and this spring.  It’s great to have a Secretary of Agriculture who is willing to listen to Senator Hoeven and other North Dakota leaders regarding the usage of cover crops for forage during this regional predicament,” said Pete Hanebutt North Dakota Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy.

“NDGGA would like to thank Senator Hoeven for his hard work in getting Agriculture Secretary Perdue to allow haying and grazing of cover crops on prevented plant acres in North Dakota beginning September 1. This change will help our livestock producers to access needed feedstocks. Eight North Dakota Ag groups were united in requesting this regulatory change; we appreciate that Washington D.C. has listened to our concerns,” said Tom Bernhardt North Dakota Grain Growers Board President.