CRP acres open for haying, but regulations apply

FARGO, N.D. -- Some Conservation Reserve Program acres now are open for emergency haying in drought-stricken North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana counties, a move meant to help livestock producers struggling with dry conditions.

Emergency haying on Conservation Reserve Program acres began July 16, 2017. (Jenny Schlecht/Agweek)

FARGO, N.D. - Some Conservation Reserve Program acres now are open for emergency haying in drought-stricken North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana counties, a move meant to help livestock producers struggling with dry conditions.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the move on July 10, a few weeks after announcing that emergency grazing would be allowed.

The announcement comes at an important time, as scorching temperatures continue to propel the spread of drought across North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota. All three states experienced an increase in the amount of land considered in "extreme drought" in the July 11 U.S. Drought Monitor, released July 13, with North Dakota going from 29.29 percent to 35.85 percent, Montana going from 12.89 percent to 22 percent and South Dakota going from 4.3 percent to 10.74 percent.

North Dakota has 19.13 percent of land in severe drought, 17.83 percent in moderate drought and 20.87 percent abnormally dry. South Dakota has 30.84 percent in severe drought, 30.83 percent in moderate drought and 20.75 percent abnormally dry. Montana has 15.74 percent in severe drought, 6.98 percent in moderate drought and 9.48 percent abnormally dry.

Even though the opening of CRP will help livestock producers, it's not a free-for-all on CRP lands. Landowners and producers looking to hay CRP need to work with their local Farm Service Agency offices, Brad Olson, Conservation Program Manager for the North Dakota State FSA Office, says.


First, not all CRP practices are eligible for emergency haying or grazing. Some wetlands programs never allow haying, Olson says.

"They have to find out whether the practice is eligible" before cutting grass, he explains.

CRP practices that allow emergency haying in North Dakota are CP1, CP2, CP4D, CP10, CP18B, CP18C and CP38E. Any other practice is ineligible, Olson explains.

After determining that haying is compatible with a practice, the CRP participant, or producer who is going to hay the land, must sign the terms and conditions for certifying how many acres they are going to use and who will get the hay. If someone is going to graze the land, they will need to work with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to determine the number of head they can put out and at what height of stubble the cows will need to come off the land.

Olson says 50 percent of the CRP area has to be left standing under emergency haying, and the producer must identify which part of the field will be used.

"They can't just cut the good parts," he says.

Olson says CRP owners who would have been able to hay more than 50 percent of their land under normal management practices this year can still do so. They just won't sign up under the emergency procedures, and haying on those lands can't begin until Aug. 2.

Under emergency procedures, the hay off CRP is not to be sold.


"You can't be the hay jockey," Olson says. "We're in an emergency situation. We're not supposed to make a buck off it."

Instead, landowners can use the hay for themselves or can donate it to a livestock producer.

While emergency grazing can be helpful for some people, emergency haying is far more useful, Olson says. Not much CRP is fenced and often there is no water source.

"They're going to have to haul water out there in most cases," Olson says.

But since the emergency grazing provision is open to all of North Dakota, it opens the possibility of someone in the drought-stricken western part of the state hauling animals to the better-off eastern side.

Another helpful thing that happened this year was Perdue allowing CRP participants to keep hay from "mid-contract management" activities. Olson explains that some participants are required to either disc, heavy harrow, burn or cut and hay CRP in the middle of the contract. Usually, the hay from those activities has to be burned and can't be used. This year, participants can use it or donate it.

However, Olson says Perdue's office has clarified that hay from mid-contract management activities on land that is not eligible for emergency haying can only be donated to another livestock producer. The CRP participant in those cases cannot keep the hay for themselves.

Olson says there are "a lot of moving parts" with what is and is not allowed on CRP, and the best bet is to call FSA for more details on any particular situation.

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