Posted: August 7, 2013

In response to continued severe drought conditions in certain areas of the country, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia announced temporary assistance to livestock producers through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  According to the press release, some farmers and ranchers affected by drought will be able to use additional CRP acres for haying or grazing “while maintaining safeguards to the conservation and wildlife benefits provided by CRP.”  USDA announced that the “reduction to CRP annual rental payments related to emergency haying or grazing will be reduced from 25 percent to 10 percent” and the “sale of hay will be allowed under certain conditions.”

FSA state offices are now authorized to expand opportunities for haying and grazing, under certain conditions, on land enrolled in CRP.  Garcia stated that the “local approach provides both the appropriate flexibility and ability to tailor safeguards specific to regional conditions.  States must adhere to specific guidelines to ensure that haying and grazing still maintains the important environmental and wildlife benefits of CRP.”
FSA has also authorized “additional expenditures related to drought response to be eligible for cost share, including connection to rural water systems and installation of permanent pipelines” under the Emergency Conservation Program.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary land retirement program designed to remove millions of acres of environmentally sensitive and highly erodible land from agricultural production.  The program provides annual rental payments in exchange for planting resource-conserving vegetation on cropland to help prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitat, and improve the environment. 
For more information on the CRP program, a recent report by the Congressional Research Service is available here.  For additional resources, visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s Conservation Programs Reading Room.