JOHANNS ANNOUNCES CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM ACTIONS TO REDUCE OKLAHOMA AND TEXAS WILDFIRE EFFECTS
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2006 -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced that agricultural producers in six Oklahoma counties and 27 north Texas counties currently being impacted by wildfires can remove dry grass on and move cattle to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage, without facing charges for grazing value or the baled value of removed forage.
"The wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma have burned more than one million acres, devastating many rural communities, as well as our farmers and ranchers," said Johanns. "Today I'm announcing that USDA will assist producers who need to immediately relocate livestock from burned pastures by opening CRP acreage to them. This action will also have an added benefit of helping to lower the risks of additional wildfires."
Unusually dry conditions, along with high winds, dry grass and brush, caused the extreme fire conditions. The six affected Oklahoma counties are: Washita, Canadian, Jefferson, Custer, Cleveland and Osage. The 27 Texas counties are: Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Childress, Collingsworth, Cottle, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Donley, Gray, Hall, Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Motley, Ochiltree, Oldham, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher and Wheeler.
CRP participants in the Oklahoma and Texas counties can voluntarily remove excess dry grass cover on CRP-enrolled land, which will help to reduce fire potential. On a case-by-case basis, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices will grant authority for CRP participants to remove the dry grass for the next 30 days.
FSA officials will work with local public safety officials to comply with local fire regulations. Producers can bale CRP grass to create firebreaks and reduce potential fire threats. Controlled burns are subject to local oversight and regulation. Any cover removed must be destroyed or donated to local livestock producers whose rangeland or pastureland has been destroyed by the wildfires.
In addition, many livestock producers in the affected counties have lost a large portion of rangeland, pastureland and fences. On a case-by-case basis, FSA county offices will grant permission for CRP participants in these counties to move cattle to CRP land for the next 60 days. Authority is limited to livestock producers who actually lost pasture or fences due to the wildfires. USDA will not charge participating producers for the grazing value or the baled value of removed forage.
FSA will also provide cost-share assistance for producers whose CRP land was burned by the wildfires. The cost-share will be used to reseed damaged fields that would not regenerate without reseeding.
The USDA Forest Service as also deployed resources to assist in fighting the wildfires in Texas, Oklahoma and surrounding states. In Texas and Oklahoma, the Forest Service has committed 15 aircraft, including four of the nation's five available large air tankers, 23 units of equipment (dozers and engines) and more than 300 personnel to fight the wildfires.
More information on the CRP Texas wildfire assistance is available at local Texas FSA offices and online at: http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov/fsa.asp.