Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging prompt action on the Nebraska Farm Service Agency (FSA) Committee's request to "authorize emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in all counties that meet the appropriate drought conditions and to give prompt consideration to future requests."
Johanns said, "USDA's State technical committee has looked at the conditions and recognized the serious need. It's my hope Secretary Vilsack will swiftly approve the request to open this land. I expect more of these requests to come in as the summer progresses and will continue monitoring the situation to ensure our farmers and ranchers receive the assistance they need."
Producers in Morrill and Sheridan counties have requested early release of CRP acres for haying and grazing as a result of drought conditions. Other counties are in the process of gathering data and could make similar requests to state FSA offices.
CRP lands are voluntarily set aside for conservation purposes. The lands can be released for haying and grazing after the primary wildlife nesting season which typically ends July 15. Nesting, however, occurred earlier than normal this year due to a mild winter and warm spring. Nebraska is requesting to allow grazing immediately. This authority has already been approved in Wyoming which has the same typical nesting season dates.
The Nebraska FSA Committee has five members representing a variety of agriculture operations in Nebraska. The members are appointed by the Administration. The USDA State Technical Committee is chaired by the State Conservationist and includes the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, various other state agencies, agriculture producers, and land and wildlife management experts.