U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Representatives Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan today called on the Department of Agriculture to take immediate action to address a shortage of animal feed in Minnesota. In a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, the members called on the Department to take emergency actions to bring relief to producers struggling with a lack of available animal feed. Last year's drought and this year's late spring have led to exceptional losses to the alfalfa crop that Minnesota dairy and cattle producers rely on as a high-protein animal feed. To address the shortage, the members requested that the Department grant an emergency exemption to the November 1st restriction that would allow farmers to harvest a second crop or graze livestock on forages on prevent plant acres without penalty. In addition, the members requested emergency authorizations to allow for additional livestock grazing on Conservation Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program acres and assistance for producers to plant high forage value cover crops.
"Farmers and ranchers are the backbone or our rural communities and this feed shortage is hurting producers across our state," Klobuchar said. "That's why I'm calling on the Department of Agriculture to provide producers with much-needed flexibility to ensure that they have enough feed to get their livestock through the summer."
"The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have worked to ensure that we have more protection for alfalfa producers and more opportunity to utilize land in the CRP in the pending Farm Bills," Peterson said. "We look forward to working with the Secretary for any additional options or aid for struggling producers."
"Last year's drought coupled with an unusually long winter has killed off nearly one million acres of alfalfa and caused uncertainty for Minnesota producers," Walz said. "The extraordinarily wet spring has only made the situation worse. The Department of Agriculture should take immediate action to give farmers and ranchers peace of mind and the flexibility they need."
"Last year's drought, followed by a tough winter, heavy rains and a summer late in coming have combined to present our farmers with some exceptionally difficult challenges I hope we can help mitigate through the actions we are requesting," said Nolan.
The full text of the letter is below:
June 7, 2013
Honorable Thomas Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We write to bring to your attention a developing crisis that is threatening dairy and cattle producers in Minnesota. The 2012 drought and this year's late spring contributed to exceptional losses to the alfalfa crop that Minnesota dairy and cattle producers rely on as a high-protein animal feed and as a result, these producers are facing a serious shortage. We urge you to take all emergency actions available to bring relief to producers struggling with a lack of availability of animal feed.
We have heard from producers who have raised concerns that the November 1st date linked to Risk Management Agency and Farm Service Agency policies is creating a disincentive for producers to plant forages resulting in a regional shortage of animal feed. To address this concern, producers are looking for an emergency exemption to the November 1st restriction to allow farmers to harvest a second crop or graze livestock on forages on prevent plant acres without penalty. This flexibility would ensure that producers have the feed they need to get their livestock through the summer.
During the 2012 drought you provided emergency authorizations to allow for additional livestock grazing on Conservation Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program acres and also to provide assistance for producers to plant high forage value cover crops. These actions helped to increase the availability of feed, while preventing erosion on environmentally sensitive land. Recognizing the significance of this year's feed shortage, we urge you to take similar actions again.
Thank you in advance of your attention to this critical issue and your efforts to assist our dairy and cattle producers who are so important to Minnesota's economic prosperity.