A federal judge in Seattle says U.S. farmers and ranchers who have already been approved can participate in a government program allowing haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program land. The ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle allows livestock producers to utilize acres in the CRP under USDA’s Critical Feed Use initiative as long as applications to modify the contacts were submitted before July 8, 2008, the date the court issued a temporary restraining order against the CFU.

The court issued an injunction against any applications filed after July 8, with one exception. An application can be approved if farmers can show that they made an investment of at least $4,500 toward haying and grazing equipment or preparation prior to the injunction date and that they relied on the CFU initiative to make the investment.

The court further ordered that for applications approved before July 8 haying and grazing must be completed by Nov. 10, 2008; for applications submitted before but approved after July 8 haying and grazing must be completed by Sept. 30, 2008.

The July 8 restraining order was issued by the court in response to a lawsuit filed by the National Wildlife Federation that sought to stop the CFU initiative. NWF claimed that the initiative would harm wildlife nesting and brood-rearing areas. The National Pork Producers Council, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, submitted a brief in support of the CFU initiative, pointing out that livestock producers are suffering significant losses because of rising grain prices and that the CFU initiative would ease the pressure on commodity crops.

The NPPC says the decision to allow haying and grazing on non-critical lands is a move that will ease pressure on corn and other commodity crops. “The judge’s statements reaffirm for us just how important CRP acres can and will be to helping meet the need today for additional grain and feed acres,” said NPPC President Bryan Black. “We encourage USDA now also to move forward with a decision to allow the early release of productive CRP acres to fully address this need.”
Sources: National Pork Producers Association, Reuters