The National Farmers Union and four state Farmers Unions have sent an urgent request to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to release Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to utilize the forage to feed livestock. States represented include Minnesota, Montana and North and South Dakota.
"This drought is a natural disaster - creating a situation where many of South Dakota's livestock producers are running out of grass and other forages to feed their animals," says Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth-generation crop and livestock producer from Conde.
In the letter, presidents of the five organizations note: “While recent rain fall has helped, it has done little to significantly alter conditions in the long term. Ranchers are forced to graze alfalfa stocks before the plants have reached maturity. Although the usual Drought Monitor Index threshold for releasing CRP has not yet been reached, hay is in short supply after the harsh winter. Many producers are left with the difficult choice of down-sizing their herd or driving hundreds of miles to purchase hay.”
They also cite media reports that sale barns in the region are being inundated with cattle brought to market by farmers and ranchers unable to feed their herds. This is driving down prices, further exasperating the problem. The organizations are urging the Secretary to release the CRP acres immediately, noting that the feed and crop situation continues to deteriorate daily. “Waiting until August to allow producers on to CRP land will provide little relief, as the grass will be of little nutritional value,” the say.