Walden backs USDA effort to reverse court order and reinstate Critical Feed Use program for ranchers and farmers
Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Shafer in support of the agency's efforts to defeat a challenge to a program vital to Second District ranchers and farmers struggling with record-high feed and forage prices.
In response to a National Wildlife Federation lawsuit, a U.S. District Judge out of the Western District of Washington on July 8 placed a restraining order on a Critical Feed Use (CFU) program approved in May by the USDA. On Thursday, July 17, the USDA will appear in district court in Seattle to defend the program.
The program would have allowed qualifying Conservation Resource Program (CRP) participants to hay or graze a portion of their land enrolled in the conservation program only after the primary nesting season in their respective areas had elapsed. In Oregon, the primary nesting season as established by USDA's Farm Service Agency is set to end today.
"This lawsuit is yet another assault on rural Americans who have followed the government's directions while trying to make an honest living and being outstanding voluntary stewards of the land," Congressman Walden said. "The restraining order comes on top of all-time high feed prices and threatens to undermine the good-faith investments ranchers and farmers have already made in a much-needed conservation and feed source program. This decision represents an unwarranted hardship levied on hardworking ranching and farming families, and I strongly back the USDA's efforts to see that this decision is overturned."
"The Oregon Cattleman's Association applauds Congressman Walden's efforts to bolster the USDA attempt to overturn a federal judge order stopping a vital feed program many Oregon livestock producers were relying on," Oregon Cattleman's Association Executive Director Kay Teisl said. "Greg is a true friend of ranchers and understands that with high feed and fuel prices, now is not the time to strangle management flexibility."
The USDA program made eligible nationwide more than 24 million acres of land for CFU, which would make available up to 18 million tons of forage worth $1.2 billion. This action was intended to provide much needed feed and forage while maintaining the conservation benefits from the nation's premier conservation program. Prices for most field crops have advanced to record or near record levels in recent months, reflecting strong demand, tight supplies and competition for acres.
The full text of the letter that Congressman Walden sent is below:
July 16, 2008
The Honorable Ed Schafer
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Schafer:
I write to express my support for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's efforts to overturn the July 8 decision by United States District Judge John C. Coughenour to put a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Critical Feed Use (CFU) program. This ruling will have a tremendous negative impact on farmers and ranchers in Oregon as they try to feed their livestock and also responsibly manage the land from which they make their living.
As you are well aware, your announcement of the CFU voluntary program on May 27, 2008 provided farmers and ranchers throughout the country the ability to modify their CRP contracts to allow for either controlled haying or grazing on portions of land enrolled in CRP, but this could take place only after the primary nesting season had elapsed. Since that time, producers have been making production decisions, investing in fencing and watering equipment, and preparing their operations for this program. At a time when feed and forage is scarce and also very costly, this program provided a bright light for some producers.
Of the nearly 100 CFU applications that have already been granted to producers in Oregon, 95 percent of them are located in Oregon's Second District, which I represent. I have already heard from many ranchers and farmers that this court decision will put a very tight financial and production burden on their operation. In a year of extremely high energy and input costs, this is not the time to further diminish management flexibility. If not overturned, the TRO may severely disrupt the production of livestock across the country, forcing many producers to make the decision of whether or not to sell their livestock because they cannot bear the financial burden. I commend the USDA for offering this program, and I offer my complete support in your efforts to reverse the Judge's ruling at this Thursday's hearing.
Member of Congress
Congressman Greg Walden represents the people of Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and Central Oregon. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and a member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.