The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage that ends on July 3 for areas in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma that were affected by a series of wildfires in March.
In a letter to Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will extend the current emergency grazing authority for wildfires through Sept. 30, 2017, for producers in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to work diligently with producers to ensure they are aware of all USDA programs that offer assistance,” Perdue said in the letter.
In April, USDA authorized emergency grazing on CRP lands located in the three states most heavily damaged by the ongoing wildfires that began on March 6. Nearly 1.5 million acres were estimated to have burned during the fires, with large volumes of hay and feed destroyed.
The March wildfires burned 700,000 acres in Kansas. Roberts and Rep. Roger Marshall (R., Kan.) had asked Perdue to consider utilizing all tools in its disposal to aid the affected producers.
“USDA is using all of the tools available to help livestock producers recover from devastating wildfires in March,” Roberts said. “Allowing emergency grazing to continue on CRP lands through September will help ranchers stay in operation during such an uncertain time.”
At a House Agriculture Committee hearing in May, Rep. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) asked Perdue about the possibility of the agency extending the CRP acre eligibility for those producers affected. “I’ve lived all my life in northwest Oklahoma, but I have never seen anything of the magnitude of these fires,” Lucas said. At the hearing, Perdue said allowing additional time to rebuild forage and for extended CRP grazing was a “reasonable request.”
FSA has used every authority currently available to assist producers suffering losses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas because of the wildfires. These include implementation of the Emergency Conservation Program to rebuild fencing; emergency use of CRP acreage to protect livestock; emergency grazing of CRP acreage, and the Livestock Indemnity Program for livestock deaths or the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees & Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). ELAP provides emergency relief to livestock producers when losses from a disaster are not adequately covered by any other disaster program.