FAQ: USDA has recently made several announcements allowing haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres as a way to provide relief for livestock farmers hit by drought this summer. What are the rules?
Answer: Emergency haying and grazing is available statewide in Iowa beginning August 2, 2012 on CRP acres. That announcement was made by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on July 23 and updated August 1. John Whitaker, executive director of USDA's Farm Service Agency in Iowa, explains the rules as follows.
Emergency haying and grazing for all Iowa counties for certain practices enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program or CRP is being allowed. This authorization became effective on August 2, 2012. Haying activities must be completed by August 31, 2012. All livestock and hay must be removed by September 30, 2012
"This authorization will benefit those livestock producers who are struggling to find forage," said Whitaker. "Eligible farmers must first contact their local FSA office to file a request. It is also important for producers to obtain a modified conservation plan from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service or NRCS that includes a haying/grazing requirement."
Contact your local FSA office before doing anything to CRP acres
"You need to contact your local FSA office to determine if your CRP seeding is eligible for this authorization," says Whitaker. Ineligible practices include those in a useful life easement, land within 120 feet of a stream or other permanent water body and practices such as waterways, filter strips, etc. Additional information on eligible practices is available from the staff at local FSA offices.
Upon approval of emergency haying, producers must leave at least 50% of each field or contiguous CRP field unhayed. The same CRP acreage cannot be both hayed and grazed. For example, if 50% of a field or contiguous field is hayed, the remaining unhayed 50% cannot be grazed; it must remain unhayed and ungrazed.
Payment will be reduced by 10% on CRP acres used for haying or grazing
A 10% reduction in the 2012 annual rental payment to farmers for CRP acres used for haying or grazing will apply on the acres that have been hayed or grazed. Eligible producers can use the CRP acreage for their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage for the purpose of haying or grazing. Hay that is baled may be given away or sold.
For more information on FSA's Emergency Conservation Program or other drought assistance, contact your local FSA office or visit FSA on-line at www.fsa.usda.gov/.
QUESTION: My neighbor has been grazing his CRP acres since July 26. He says he got permission from FSA. That's before August 2, the date FSA says all CRP land in Iowa will become available for haying and grazing. Did my neighbor abide by the rules?
Answer: The answer is "yes"—and here's the explanation. In response to extreme temperature and drought that's impacted forage acres this summer, USDA's Farm Service Agency authorized emergency grazing use of CRP acres July 25.
The first 25 counties in Iowa authorized by Iowa FSA on July 25 for emergency grazing this summer were: Allamakee, Appanoose, Benton, Boone, Cedar, Chickasaw, Clayton, Clinton, Davis, Delaware, Dubuque, Greene, Henry, Iowa, Jackson, Jones, Lee, Linn, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Poweshiek, Tama, Warren and Webster counties. Jasper County was added to the list on July 26.
John Whitaker, state executive director for Iowa FSA, says this authorization permitted emergency grazing in only those 26 counties. No haying of CRP acres was allowed before August 2. However, beginning August 2, haying and grazing are allowed statewide on CRP land. Haying activities must be completed by August 31, 2012. All livestock and hay must be removed by September 30, 2012.
Additionally, there is a 10% CRP payment reduction for grazing CRP acres under these emergency provisions. Emergency grazing authority is limited to livestock producers who have suffered pasture losses due to ongoing drought conditions in the officially designated counties.
You must first request FSA approval to graze eligible CRP acres
Producers who are in eligible areas and who are interested in grazing CRP land under emergency authorization and who are current participants in the CRP program, must first request approval from FSA to graze the eligible acreage. They also must obtain a modified conservation plan from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to include grazing requirements.
"Beginning August 2, all counties in Iowa became eligible for emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acreage," he adds. "As of that date, eligible producers can begin making requests to their local FSA office for this authorization."
If you have questions, always contact your local FSA office. Also, you can visit FSA at www.fsa.usda.gov/ia for more information.