Extreme drought conditions throughout the Northern Plains have led to a shortage of hay and pasture
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today urged U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary (USDA) Sonny Perdue to provide timely assistance to counties currently facing extreme drought conditions, and if drought conditions worsen, as expected, to be ready to provide expedited assistance to counties that will likely soon be in extreme drought conditions and eligible for assistance from the Livestock Forage Program (LFP). In their letter to Perdue, Thune and Rounds also requested that Conservation Reserve Program acres be made available for emergency haying and grazing as soon as possible due to the substantial loss of grazing and forage for feed.
“Timely assistance is needed in order to preserve foundation grazing livestock herds in the drought-stricken areas of our state from further downsizing due to lack of feed and forage ... Accordingly, we request that you mobilize applicable county, state, and headquarters staff to be prepared to take LFP applications and issue payments as soon as practicable after the D3 category is realized by any county,” the senators wrote.
“In addition, we request that as counties are triggered for emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, that you make as many of the 977,555 CRP-enrolled acres in South Dakota available for haying and grazing due to the already realized substantial loss of grazing and forage for feed as soon as reasonably possible.”
Counties are determined eligible for immediate assistance under the LFP as soon as any part of a county is at a D3 (extreme drought) category rating by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Several counties in South Dakota are currently rated D2 and are expected to be rated D3 in the near future.
More than 484,000 CRP-enrolled acres in South Dakota are considered “environmentally sensitive” by USDA, which does not normally allow these acres to be hayed or grazed under emergency conditions. Thune and Rounds are requesting that the environmentally sensitive acres be opened for haying and grazing, as they were in 2012, and that haying and grazing be allowed in eligible counties beginning no later than July 15.
Read the full text of the letter.