USDA expands CRP emergency haying & grazing to 48 Montana counties | TSLN.com

USDA expands CRP emergency haying & grazing to 48 Montana counties

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new flexibility in the USDA Farm Service Agency's (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that will provide much-needed help to Montana's drought-affected livestock producers effective immediately, said Bruce Nelson, former FSA administrator who has returned to his position as the State Executive Director for Montana Farm Service Agency.

"In Montana, today's announcement means an additional 27 counties are authorized for emergency haying and grazing of CRP acres due to drought bringing the total to 48 Montana counties," Nelson said. "This change allows CRP lands that are not yet classified "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing. Interested producers must sign up with their county FSA office before haying or grazing can occur."

As of July 23, the following 48 out of 56 counties in Montana are authorized for emergency CRP haying and grazing: Beaverhead, Big Horn, Blaine, Broadwater, Carbon, Carter, Cascade, Chouteau, Custer, Dawson, Deer Lodge, Fallon, Fergus, Flathead, Gallatin, Garfield, Golden Valley, Granite, Jefferson, Judith Basin, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Madison, McCone, Meagher, Missoula, Musselshell, Park, Petroleum, Phillips, Pondera, Powder River, Powell, Prairie, Ravalli, Richland, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sheridan, Silver Bow, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Teton, Treasure, Valley, Wheatland, Wibaux and Yellowstone.

Eight Montana counties not eligible as of July 23 are: Daniels, Hill, Glacier, Liberty, Lincoln, Mineral, Sanders and Toole.

To take advantage of the emergency haying and grazing provisions, authorized producers can use the CRP acreage for their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage upon written approval from the FSA county office. Haying must be completed by Aug. 31, 2012. Grazing livestock must be removed from the CRP acres by Sept. 30, 2012.A 10 percent payment reduction for CRP acres used will be assessed. Under these new provisions, CRP participants can sell or donate hay to any livestock producer(s).

• Changes to Conservation Reserve Program: To assist farmers and ranchers affected by drought, Vilsack is using his discretionary authority to allow additional acres under CRP to be used for haying or grazing under emergency conditions. CRP is a voluntary program that provides producers annual rental payments on their land in exchange for planting resource conserving crops on cropland to help prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitat and improve the environment. Given the widespread nature of this drought, forage for livestock is already substantially reduced. This action to allow "abnormally dry" counties to be eligible for haying and grazing will increase available forage for livestock. Haying and grazing will only be allowed following the local primary nesting season, which ended on July 16th in Montana. Especially sensitive lands such as wetlands, stream buffers and rare habitats will not be eligible.

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• ECP Wildfire Program Authorized in Rosebud & Powder River counties: On July 5, Rosebud and Powder River counties were approved for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) for Wildfires. Those interested in this cost-share program available to help restore fences and conservation structures, should contact the Rosebud or Powder River FSA county offices.

• Montana Hay Hotline: Montana FSA encourages producers seeking hay or pasture or who have hay or pasture available to utilize the complimentary Montana Department of Agriculture's Hay Hotline at http://services.agr.mt.gov/Hay_List/.

Additional information is available at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/mt and http://www.usda.gov/drought.

– FSA