Drought conditions throughout the state are putting pressure on pastureland, a cause for concern among many farmers. The federal government has provided increased access to Conservation Reserve Program acres for haying and grazing. I also am working with state officials to provide greater access to state lands that could help spare farmers from having to sell livestock or make other difficult decisions before they run out of pasture.
In particular, I am communicating with the Minnesota DNR to urge opening up state-owned lowlands that may have retained enough moisture to provide added value for haying/grazing. Time is of the essence on this issue because every day we wait the land is drying out and more farmers are facing tough decisions. Please reach out to our area Minnesota DNR Wildlife Area contacts and ask them to allow access to lowlands for haying and grazing. This link includes phone numbers for the local DNR contacts and I will keep you posted regarding anything I hear.
As for the CRP lands, last Thursday haying and grazing was granted for more counties in Minnesota, mainly the western two-thirds of the state. Here’s the catch: Grazing is allowed now, but haying remains off limits until August due to our state’s overly strict regulations on nesting birds.
Emergency CRP 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. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture map shows eligibility has approximately doubled from the 30 counties or so which previously qualified.
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.
Until next time, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help on this.