WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today reintroduced the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Flexibility Act. This bipartisan legislation would improve the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) ability to allow for expedited emergency haying of CRP acres in response to drought and other weather-related disaster events. Under current statute, emergency CRP haying is not allowed until after the primary nesting season, which ends August 1 in South Dakota and Minnesota. The bill would create flexibility for producers by allowing emergency haying on CRP acres before August 1 when certain conditions are met and in consultation with the state technical committee.
“As South Dakota farmers and ranchers deal with ever-changing drought conditions, it’s critical that USDA has the flexibility to step in and help producers access forage for their livestock,” said Thune. “As a longtime supporter of CRP, I’m proud to lead this common-sense measure that would help producers meet their forage needs during weather-related emergencies, and I will continue to work to ensure that it is included in the final farm bill.”
“In Minnesota and across the country, more and more areas are experiencing severe drought and heat waves,” said Smith. “This is devastating for our cattle producers, who rely on hay to feed their herds. When severe droughts hit, farmers should be able to work with USDA and conservationists on a way to access reserve land for haying and grazing. This will lessen the impact of severe weather on the farm economy and help our farmers get through increasingly common bouts of extreme weather.”
“This legislation is needed to improve the timeliness of emergency haying of Conservation Reserve Program acres during droughts like the current one that has caused forage shortages and the culling of herds,” said Scott VanderWal, president of South Dakota Farm Bureau and vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We appreciate the efforts of Senator Thune and Senator Rounds to make this program more helpful to producers during weather-related disaster events.”
The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).