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Push From AFBF on CRP Acres

Published on: 07:11AM Jul 02, 2008

By Jim Wiesemeyer

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

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Group says CRP acres should be opened in key areas

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


USDA should allow haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) aces in disaster areas, and not require farmers to wait until later this summer The request has come from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), who also renewed its suggestion for USDA to issue partial disaster payments to farmers. It also asked for a change in rules so farmers can harvest forage after Sept. 1 instead of Nov. 1, from fields where harsh weather prevented spring planting.

"We urge USDA to consider an immediate, one-time release of (CRP) acres for haying and grazing in disaster counties and contiguous counties," wrote AFBF president Bob Stallman.

Senate Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has also asked USDA for similar steps regarding CRP acres, noting that portions of Iowa are "way behind" normal because of floods and heavy rains.

Background: In late May, USDA said it would allow haying and grazing on more than 24 million acres of the CRP after the wildfowl nesting season ends if owners pay a $75 fee and take steps to protect the land.

AFBF said the delay in using the land could hurt farmers caught by floods.

Regarding disaster payments, USDA Secretary Ed Schafer said last week it was unlikely that partial payments are allowed from a disaster fund created by the new farm law.

AFBF said partial payments were made under previous programs and encouraged USDA to do so again, while Sen. Grassley said, "It's not a simple thing but I support exploring it and doing something if it's feasible.”

Following is the text of the AFBF letter:

“As you are well aware, extreme weather in the Midwest has hampered corn and soybean production in the region, adding further stress to already tight supplies for these crops. This extreme weather also has destroyed pasture land, making this disaster problematic not only for America's crop producers but for livestock producers as well.

“Farm Bureau believes the new supplemental disaster assistance program included in the 2008 farm bill will provide some necessary assistance to America's farmers and ranchers, and we appreciate the Agriculture Department's work to implement this program as quickly as possible. As stated in our letter of June 23, Farm Bureau hopes that USDA will act as it has done in the past and provide farmers and ranchers with estimate or partial disaster payments as quickly as possible. In addition, we strongly encourage USDA to make the regulations on disaster assistance its highest farm bill implementation priority.

“Additionally, Farm Bureau believes some relief for this disaster can be found in late planting of cover crops on prevented planting acres. In order to alleviate fraud in the prevented planting system, current rules prevent the harvest of such cover crops until after November 1. Given the current disaster situation, Farm Bureau requests that producers be allowed to harvest a prevented planting crop beginning September 1, with the strict caveat that the grain can only be chopped and used as livestock feed. Given the current late date for planting, it is extremely unlikely that abuse of prevented planting could occur.

“Finally, we greatly appreciate the willingness of USDA to allow haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres after nesting season on a case-by-case basis, but the delay in availability of this land could be particularly problematic to livestock producers affected by flooding. We urge USDA to consider an immediate, one-time release of CRP acres for haying and grazing in disaster counties and contiguous counties. Farm Bureau policy is extremely supportive of the CRP, and our farmers and ranchers greatly value the program as a conservation tool, wildlife management device and hunting ground. However, our policy also states that "haying and grazing of CRP acres should be permitted at the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture in weather-related or other emergency situations." Given pastures in the Midwest that are either underwater or too wet to produce adequate feed and the immediate need to move cattle from this land, Farm Bureau believes the situation warrants permitting haying and grazing in disaster and contiguous counties.

“Thank you for your consideration of our requests.”

 

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


 

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