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Heitkamp, Hoeven urge drought help for ranchers

Heitkamp, Hoeven urge drought help for ranchers

By ZACHARY SILVER

Hagstrom Report intern

North Dakota Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, and John Hoeven, a Republican, urged Agriculture Department officials last week to provide as much help as possible for the state' ranchers who are plagued by drought.

At a hearing Thursday, Heitkamp urged Misty Jones, director of the Conservation and Environmental Programs Division at the Farm Service Agency, which runs the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), to "go to the limit" in using idled CRP land to help the ranchers.

"I don't know how things can get worse for our ranchers out there," Heitkamp said. "If they're making it, they're making it day to day right now. And they don't know how they are going to carry this over into the winter."

Hoeven also stressed the dire situation in the state due to an ongoing drought. He announced last week in a press release that USDA will expand flexibilities in emergency grazing on CRP lands.

USDA has not authorized emergency haying at this time. Perdue will continue to monitor conditions and will consider expanding emergency authority if conditions worsen, USDA said.

Heitkamp said the farmers and ranchers don't have time to wait for the government to study this situation, Red River Farm Network reported today.

Landowners dealing with mid-management practices for the Conservation Reserve Program are being notified that they need to destroy the hay, Red River also reported.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said this notice came out less than a week after USDA said it would release CRP acres for emergency grazing in the areas with severe or extreme drought, Red River added. In Thune's words, "it makes no sense" for USDA to simultaneously offer assistance to livestock producers through emergency grazing and require hay be destroyed under other CRP practices. Thune said there may be thousands of tons of hay destroyed that could be used for livestock feed in the drought areas.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who is considered a potential candidate against Heitkamp in 2018, praised Perdue, Red River reported.

"The speed at which Secretary Perdue is taking action for farmers and ranchers is very impressive. It's a level of awareness like I've not seen in previous administrations," Cramer said.

–The Hagstrom Report