Drought has led officials to allow emergency haying and grazing on conservation land in four south-central Nebraska counties.
The Nebraska Farm Service Agency announced the emergency use on Thursday for Adams, Franklin, Kearney and Webster counties, the Grand Island Independent reported. Conservation Reserve Program haying in those counties is now allowed until Aug. 31, and grazing on that protected land is allowed through Sept. 30.
Those enrolled in the federal conservation program agree not to farm environmentally-sensitive land in exchange for a yearly rental payment. The emergency haying and grazing is allowed only under certain circumstances, such as when drought drastically cuts into the local livestock feed supply.
Producers who want to hay or graze their CRP acres must first sign up and receive approval from their local FSA office and must work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to ensure an amended conservation plan is in place.
Producers can use the CRP acreage for their own livestock or grant another livestock producer use of the acres. Participants can also donate — but are not allowed to sell — the hay.
"There is no payment reduction for CRP acres used for haying and grazing under these emergency provisions," Nebraska Farm Service Agency Director Dan Steinkruger said. "However, participants are limited to one hay cutting."
The National Weather Service says that for this growing season beginning in June, the area has received about 3.5 inches of rain, nearly 6 inches less than the 30-year average.