HURON, S.D. — South Dakota Farmers Union joins with other drought-stricken states in requesting that Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres be released for livestock owners to utilize as forage to feed their animals.
“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,” said Doug Sombke, President of S.D. Farmers Union and a fourth-generation crop and livestock producer from Conde.
On June 20, 2017, Sombke, along with the president of National Farmers Union and presidents of Farmers Union organizations from the drought-stricken states of North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, with this request.
The letter reads as follows:
June 20, 2017
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave, SW
I write on behalf of Farmers Union members who are experiencing significant drought in the Upper Great Plains. I urge you to immediately consider emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land.
Emergency haying and grazing of CRP land is authorized to provide relief to livestock producers in areas affected by a severe drought or similar natural disaster. Farmers Union members in all of North Dakota and parts of South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota are facing serious drought conditions. The National Drought Mitigation Center current lists D1 and D-2 conditions in and around the Missouri River Basin.
Reports from our members have painted an alarming picture of a deteriorating feed supply. 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.
Local media outlets are frequently sharing stories of sales barns that are oversupplied with cattle, causing prices to decline since the spring. Such significant herd downsizing, especially in the context of a flooded market and low prices, threatens the long-term viability of many of these ranches.
I urge you to release CRP land for emergency grazing as soon as possible. Waiting until August to allow producers on to CRP land will provide little relief, as the grass will be of little nutritional value. The window for this decision is short and narrowing each day.
I thank you for your consideration and stand ready to provide any additional assistance.
Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union
Doug Sombke, President, South Dakota Farmers Union
Alan Merrill, President, Montana Farmers Union
Gary Wertish, President Minnesota Farmers Union
Mark Watne, President North Dakota Farmers Union
— South Dakota Farmers Union
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