ALL COUNTIES CAN NOW OFFER CRP LAND FOR HAYING, GRAZING
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Every county in Alabama can now offer its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land to livestock producers in counties that have been approved for emergency haying and grazing, Danny Crawford, director of the state Farm Service Agency, said today.
"Everybody who has CRP land can offer it to any producer in a county who has been approved for haying and grazing of CRP land," Crawford said. "If they know of any friends or family or fellow farmers in those counties, they can contact them and any producer in that county can then go and get hay off of that CRP for their cattle."
Crawford said farmers in Lauderdale County, which had fallen outside the 150-mile expanded CRP relief area announced last week by the USDA, now qualify to cut hay or graze cattle on land in any of the state's other 66 counties.
Six Alabama counties -- Pike, Bullock, Covington, Elmore, Geneva and Montgomery -- were previously approved for emergency grazing and haying, but the USDA expanded that area to a 150-mile radius of those counties last week.
The FSA State Committee has the authority to approve haying and grazing after the nesting season, which officially ended July 15. For more information on qualification rules, producers should contact their local FSA office.
"It may not be worth anything, but it's better than no hay at all," said Crawford, adding that much of the CRP land has also been adversely affected by the drought. "We are getting several requests in daily so our list will continue to grow. A lot of other states' lists are growing as well so I think the overall picture is there is not a lot of hay going to be available to our producers unless they can ship it in, and that's very expensive."
The hay shortage due to persistent drought conditions throughout the U.S., has reached a critical stage for livestock producers. Alabama livestock sale barns are busy as producers sell calves earlier because they don't have hay to feed them.
Because the drought is so widespread, Crawford said there's little chance of an emergency hay lift similar to the one in 2000. "It doesn't appear that we have a lot of people volunteering to furnish hay to folks right now," he said. "There's just not a lot of hay around unless you have it shipped in and the cost of fuel makes that hard to do. You can probably buy ground feed cheaper than you can buy hay."
Crawford said he had discussed the situation with Rep. Jo Bonner's office Tuesday and the congressman indicated that he would support funding for the Livestock Assistance Program, which would help defray some of the cost of feeding cattle and help prevent producers from having to liquidate their herds.
"(Bonner) indicated he would lead the fight if there was some sort of livestock assistance," Crawford said. "There are so many states joining the declarations now that congress is more apt to get things passed when there are more folks feeling your pain."
CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land. This action will permit approved CRP participants to cut hay or graze livestock on CRP acreage, providing supplemental forage to producers whose pastures have been adversely affected by drought. CRP participants who do not own or lease livestock may rent or lease the grazing privilege to an eligible livestock farmer located in an approved county.