In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator John Hoeven Friday requested that the National Farm Service Agency (FSA) permit emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for North Dakota counties affected by severe flooding as soon as possible. While the USDA awaits data on the level of hay and pasture loss from the state FSA office, the Senator also asked that the agency consider not only the level of precipitation a particular county has experienced, but also water from outside a county that is now flooding hay and pasture land.
The financial impact of prevented planting alone illustrates the substantial cost of flooding to North Dakota producers. The FSA estimates that to be more than $1 billion, while the economic cost to the state will reach nearly $3 billion. In addition to these crop losses, North Dakota ranchers do not have access to pasture and hay land to feed their livestock.
“I’m concerned that only considering precipitation may leave some of our hardest hit counties without the relief they need,” Hoeven wrote. “Farmers and ranchers in North Dakota are facing historic challenges owing to unprecedented flooding.”
Hoeven told the secretary that the USDA could also aid farmers and ranchers by making September 1 the date for harvesting cover crops planted on prevented plant land without a cost-prohibitive penalty. Currently producers who are unable to plant an insured crop and who will receive a prevented plant payment cannot plant a cover crop and harvest that crop prior to November 1 without incurring a penalty. If producers harvest prior to November 1, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) requires them to take a 65 percent cut in their prevented plant payment and premium on that acreage.
If RMA would allow the harvest date to be moved to September 1, Hoeven said, it will provide relief for farmers with flooded land; help pull water out of the soil, meaning less water next year; provide much needed forage for livestock; and help address salinity problems that will occur if the prevented plant ground does not have a cover crop. If North Dakota producers must wait until November to harvest, Hoeven said he’s concerned that those benefits will not be realized.
“North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers will endure much hardship this year,” Hoeven wrote. “Accordingly, I strongly urge you to consider relief measures available through emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program land and to allow early harvesting of cover crops on prevented plant acres.”