***UPDATE: As of September 15th, the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resource Conservation Service have announced that the 30 day rest period provision will be waived. Producers should contact their local FSA office to work on an updated conservation plan and apply for the waiver.***
The Colorado Farm Bureau today sent a letter to USDA FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce asking for swift changes to improve the flexibility of the CRP Emergency Haying and Grazing program. New rules require a 30 day rest period prior to the state’s first frost date of October 15th. Producers currently grazing CRP acres would need to move livestock out for 30 days starting on September 15th.
“It makes the program essentially unworkable for livestock producers in counties that were just made eligible for the program,” said Zach Riley, Director of National Affairs for Colorado Farm Bureau. “Producers will either be forced to wait to graze until after October 15th, or ship livestock multiple times to access CRP acres, move back off, and then return 30 days later.”
The “rest period” requirement was added subsequent to the 2018 Farm Bill and the Farm Bureau is concerned about the lack of notice to producers of a rule that makes an emergency program so difficult to utilize, especially in years where drought disasters are declared late in the calendar year, close to first frost dates.
According to the letter, the rule is “problematic and arbitrary in nature, and it creates significant costs for transportation of livestock at a time when producers can least afford it, due to ongoing losses in price and increased costs of inputs. It adds stress to livestock, endangers pregnancy and will not help protect native plants and grasses already dormant due to the significant drought conditions…”
Every county in Colorado is eligible for the Emergency Haying and Grazing program due to ongoing drought conditions. But Riley says its not going to work for producers in recently approved counties, without changes to the rest period rule.
“Essentially what this means is producers in recently-declared counties won’t be able to access CRP acres for grazing for another 40 or so days.”
Despite the problematic rule for CRP access, producers are reminded that they can access relief funds for livestock feed through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program.