(Lincoln, NE) Gov. Dave Heineman received notice today from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that the department has approved additional counties from his request for emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands.
USDA approved emergency grazing in Buffalo, Sherman, Garfield, Loup, Wheeler and Dawson counties, bringing the number of Nebraska counties approved for emergency grazing to nine. Hayes, Hitchcock and Custer counties were approved previously. Emergency grazing on CRP lands is an important drought relief option for ranchers seeking suitable forage and pasture lands for feeding livestock. Additional county approvals are possible as the data continues to be gathered and dry conditions continue.
"The importance of drought flexibility for Nebraska's agricultural producers and rural communities continues to grow as temperatures rise and rains fail to fall," Gov. Heineman said. "I appreciate the quick work of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices across Nebraska, and also the rapid response of the USDA and Secretary Johanns."
Last week, Gov. Heineman wrote U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns requesting the release of CRP lands for emergency grazing and haying. USDA has also approved the Governor's request for emergency haying on CRP lands, but has delayed its implementation until after July 15.
CRP is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners. Farmers and ranchers can receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance for establishing long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland. CRP rules under the current federal farm bill allow managed grazing and haying of CRP lands after July 15. A release or waiver is required to permit either action before the July deadline. Nebraska has more than 1.2 million acres of CRP land, according to USDA statistics on the federal program.