Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus today announced that farmers and ranchers in drought-stricken counties can now hay and graze on farmer and rancher-owned wetlands.
The wetlands were set aside under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that provides payment to farmers and ranchers in exchange for not using the land. Wetland grasses are generally healthier and more abundant than grasses in drier areas.
"Montana ranchers are experiencing one of the hottest, driest summers on record, and it's affecting hay crops and grass across our state," Tester said. "Opening up additional land for haying and grazing will provide certainty to help these folks get through the summer and prepare for the winter."
"Our ranchers need feed for their cattle now, and that's why we pushed the USDA to open up extra land for grazing and haying. It's hot and dry out there and I'll keep doing all I can to make sure Montana producers aren't hurt by drought."
The Senators first announced the use of non-wetland CRP land for haying and grazing last week. This will greatly expand the amount of land in Montana available forage for livestock. Use of sensitive conservation lands will still be subject to heightened environmental controls.
Tester and Baucus also announced that farmers and ranchers in Carter and Powder River counties are eligible for emergency loans to pay for crop losses since those counties directly border disaster-declared counties in Wyoming and South Dakota.
Last month, Tester and Baucus successfully prompted the USDA to speed up processing of disaster assistance requests and provide additional financial assistance to Montana farmers and ranchers affected by wildfire and drought.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that this year's drought is the worst in the United States since the 1950s.