ST. PAUL – Emergency access to Conservation Reserve Program acres for haying and grazing has now been granted for more counties in Minnesota, mainly encompassing the western two-thirds of the state.
State Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, on Wednesday wrote a letter to state and federal officials urging them to grant emergency CRP haying and grazing usage in the counties he represents – Lac qui Parle, Lyon, Redwood and Yellow Medicine. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture map shows eligibility has approximately doubled from the 30 counties or so which qualified earlier in the week, with the aforementioned District 16A counties included.
Swedzinski said this expansion was needed because a current drought is impacting pastures in Minnesota and may soon force cattle farmers to sell livestock or make other difficult decisions before they run out of grass for grazing. Allowing haying and grazing on more CRP lands will provide relief to farmers facing a shortfall of pasture and range land, Swedzinski said.
“This is good news for our farmers who already are facing challenging times,” Swedzinski said. “I thank our state and federal officials for granting this emergency CRP access in our counties and others around the state that face similar situations. Recent rain may aid our situation slightly, but likely will not make a significant difference in this year’s crop so it remains important to have this opportunity for haying and grazing on CRP lands.”
Swedzinski said he received positive responses to his letter from Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, along with congressional members including Reps. Jim Hagedorn, Tom Emmer, Angie Craig and Michelle Fischbach, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The Minnesota Farm Services Agency indicates on its website, “Emergency haying or grazing is limited to the acres physically located within the boundary of the eligible county or portion of a county. Under this authority, acres will only be authorized for a specified time and may end earlier than announced if conditions improve. Producers can use the CRP acreage for their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of their CRP acreage. For emergency haying, producers are limited to one cutting and are permitted to sell the hay. Participants must remove all hay from CRP acreage within 15 days after baling and remove all livestock from CRP acreage no later than 1 day after the end of the emergency grazing period.”
The FSA also says CRP participants requesting emergency or nonemergency haying and grazing must file a request with their county FSA office indicating the acres to be hayed or grazed before the activity begins.
Emergency haying and grazing status is reviewed and authorized each Thursday using the U.S. Drought monitor. Counties are approved for emergency haying and grazing due to drought conditions on a county-by-county basis.