FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2017
Contact: Hannah Packman, 202-554-1600
WASHINGTON – In response to persistent drought conditions in the Upper Great Plains, NFU President Roger Johnson joined North Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farmers Union, and Montana Farmers Union to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to release Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for emergency haying and grazing.
In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Farmers Union emphasized the need for immediate relief for producers in all of North Dakota and parts of South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. Many ranchers have little hay and feed left after the harsh winter. “Reports from our members have painted an alarming picture of a deteriorating feed supply,” the letter reads. “While recent rain fall has helped, it has done little to significantly alter conditions in the long term.”
As hay becomes scarcer, and with no sign of relief, many producers are left with the difficult choice of down-sizing their herd, driving hundreds of miles to purchase hay, or finding additional pasture. “Local media outlets are frequently sharing stories of sales barns that are oversupplied with cattle, causing prices to decline since the spring,” states the letter. “Such significant herd downsizing, especially in the context of a flooded market and low prices, threatens the long-term viability of many of these ranches.”
Emergency haying and grazing of CRP land is authorized in areas affected by a severe drought or similar natural disaster to provide relief to livestock producers. Given the severity and duration of the drought, the group advocated for immediate action. “Waiting until August to allow producers on to CRP land will provide little relief, as the grass will be of little nutritional value. The window for this decision is short and narrowing each day.”
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.