Hoeven: USDA Opens Additional Conservation Acres for Emergency Haying and Grazing

Announcement Immediately Follows Senator’s Efforts as Chairman of Agriculture Appropriations

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has opened additional conservation acres for emergency grazing and haying for areas of North Dakota affected by severe drought. These are conservation practice (CP) acres, except CP25 and CP42 programs. This authorization allows producers in all North Dakota counties as well as some counties in neighboring states to graze or hay CRP wetland and buffer practices, in addition to previously authorized lands. Specifically, counties experiencing D2 intensity or with any part of their border located within 150 miles of an authorized county are eligible. Interested producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to access eligible acres.

Hoeven has been pressing USDA to open additional CRP acres and today’s announcement immediately follows Hoeven’s efforts to secure additional support for farmers and ranchers affected by drought in the Fiscal Year 2018 agriculture funding bill, which directs USDA to open additional conservation acres. Further, it builds on USDA’s approval of the senator’s request to allow emergency haying of CRP acres beginning July 16, as well as the delegation letter led by Hoeven that resulted in the opening of emergency grazing.

“It is vital that USDA respond to worsening drought conditions, and we welcome the access to additional grazing and haying on CRP lands,” Hoeven said. “We continue working to ensure that farm bill programs provide a secure safety net for our producers to help them get through this difficult time.”

Hoeven is working to ensure that programs at USDA work well for farmers and ranchers, helping them weather the drought and maintain their operations. This includes:

NRCS Wetland Restoration Acres Haying and Grazing

Hoeven also helped secure Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) acres for haying and grazing. 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.

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 found here at the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

Ensuring Adequate Loss Adjusters

Hoeven secured a commitment from the head of the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to ensure there are loss adjustors to assess drought damage in North Dakota. The senator urged Heather Manzano, Acting RMA Administrator, to hold insurance companies to their contracts and ensure they provide adequate personnel to address claims in a timely fashion, which the she committed to do. This will help prevent delays for producers facing drought and other challenges.

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. Ranchers in affected counties have eight months from the date of the disaster designation to apply. 

In addition, USDA has provided producers with FSA loans a 12-month exemption from a requirement that they have physical control of their livestock. This exemption will allow ranchers to weather the drought by moving their livestock to feedlots or other states where they have grass before taking back physical control at a later date.