USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced on Monday that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will modify Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) policies to provide additional help to those farmers and ranchers by the nation’s prolonged drought.

 “I am pleased to have worked with USDA to act immediately to bring additional relief to farmers and ranchers across the country battling drought,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), ranking member of the Senate committee on agriculture, nutrition and forestry. He and others had been urging USDA to consider such additional options for drought relief. “Given the extreme conditions out there, the changes in policy just make sense.”

 As outlined by USDA the policy changes include:

  • FSA is permitting farmers and ranchers in drought-stricken states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, to extend the emergency grazing period from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31, 2011, without an additional payment reduction. Producers wishing to participate in emergency grazing must first request permission from the FSA county office by indicating the acreage to be grazed.
  • As a second condition designed to help producers, FSA will allow producers nationwide to utilize harvested hay from expiring Conservation Reserve Program acres when those acres are being prepared for fall seeded crops. Prior to this modification all mechanically harvested hay was required to be destroyed. This change enables producers to feed the hay that is mechanically harvested to their own livestock or to sell or donate hay. Consistent with existing policy for managed or emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acres, rental payments will be reduced by 25 percent for those utilizing this option.

 “I will continue to work with USDA and FSA to ensure every resource is available to those in need,” Roberts said.

 For more information about the Conservation Reserve Program and Emergency Haying and Grazing, producers are encouraged to visit their USDA Service Centers or go online. Search under Conservation Programs and Disaster Assistance