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Montana Ag Network: Drought resources for ranchers

Posted at 5:47 PM, Jun 16, 2021

As drought and grasshoppers continue to get worse and have an impact on the state's natural resources, many Montana ranch families are looking for pasture to graze and hay to harvest.

To assist ranchers and landowners during severe drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency is providing producers with options to help ease the burden of drought.

In Montana, 29 counties have been given emergency authorization by USDA’s Farm Service Agency for haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acres. A list by state and map of eligible counties are updated weekly and available on FSA’s website.

Emergency haying and grazing use of Conservation Reserve Program acres provides temporary relief for agriculture producers. Thanks to a streamlined authorization process, Montana producers will be able to more quickly obtain emergency use approval to begin emergency haying or grazing of CRP acres.

Acting Montana State Farm Service Agency (FSA) Director Les Rispens explained that the U.S. Drought Monitor determines which counties qualify for emergency CRP haying and grazing.

“It’s based on the U.S. Drought Monitor, on either eight weeks of D2 (Severe) drought or any part of the county being in D3 (Extreme) drought,” explained Rispens. “CRP grazing and haying also includes neighboring counties.”

Before haying or grazing eligible acres, producers must submit a request for CRP emergency haying or grazing to FSA and obtain a modified conservation plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“You don't have to be haying or grazing your own CRP, it can be somebody else's,” said Rispens. “That seems to be a point of confusion. People ask ‘well the person with CRP doesn’t have cows, I have cows but I don't have CRP. Why can't we work this out?’ Well, we can. That works just fine. You will need to come to an arrangement with that CRP owner. Then get an application approved with us. We will calculate AUM's and grazing periods and help you out with that.”

Emergency grazing is authorized for up to 90 days and emergency haying is authorized for up to 60 days outside of the primary nesting season which is May 15-July 15. Under the emergency grazing provisions, producers can use the CRP acreage for their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage. The eligible CRP acreage is limited to acres located within the approved county.

Another program that livestock producers in 14 Montana counties are eligible to apply for is 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) benefits on small grain, native pasture, improved pasture, annual ryegrass, and forage sorghum.

LFP provides compensation if you suffer grazing losses for covered livestock due to drought on privately owned or leased land or fire on federally managed land.

FSA county committees can only accept LFP applications after notification is received by the National Office of qualifying drought or if a federal agency prohibits producers from grazing normal permitted livestock on federally managed lands due to qualifying fire.

The following Montana counties have triggered the 2021 LFP drought criteria: Carter, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Fallon, Garfield, McCone, Phillips, Prairie, Richland, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Valley and Wibaux. Producers must complete a CCC-853 and the required supporting documentation no later than January 31, 2022, for 2021 losses.

For more information or to enroll in these programs, contact your local Farm Service Agency office.