U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour has ruled to allow livestock producers to utilize at least 2.5 million acres of non-critical Conservation Reserve Program land for haying and grazing, rejecting the calls for a ban of USDA’s Critical Feed Use initiative.

The decision was based largely on a brief filed by the National Pork Producers Council in response to the National Wildlife Federation’s lawsuit regarding the USDA’s CFU initiative. NPPC’s brief, filed with the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, pointed out the significant losses livestock producers are suffering due to the recent spike in grain prices and the need to rely on the CFU initiative to avoid suffering irreparable harm to their business and possible loss of their farms.

In declining to extend the injunction, Judge Coughenour stated, “There are substantial competing hardships, whose impact could be devastating to citizens who trusted that their government was acting legally in implementing the Critical Feed Use initiative, as well as to the nation and the world economy at large, if the Court issues the injunction that Plaintiffs urge.” Instead, he ordered the NWF and USDA to come up with a compromise plan designed to mitigate the hardships of livestock producers, suggesting that at least 2.5 million acres of CRP land be released for haying and grazing.

According to USDA estimates, the CFU initiative will generate around 18 million tons of hay, worth approximately $1.2 billion.

NPPC board member Doug Wolf, who raises both hogs and cattle on his 1300 acre farm in Lancaster, Wis., said, “This is a significant victory for pork producers who face not only losses as a result of volatility on grain markets, but tremendous uncertainty over securing adequate supplies of feed. The court’s decision to allow this land to be hayed and grazed could free up an estimated 105 million bushels of corn, or a ten to fifteen percent increase in carry over stocks of grain, providing the certainty producers need to continue operating.”

Source: National Pork Producers Council