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Drought causes USDA to let farmers use CRP protected acreage

August 28, 2007

Colleen Cashell, executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency in Washington County announced Monday that USDA has approved Conservation Reserve Program participants and eligible livestock producers in Washington County for emergency haying and grazing of approved CRP cool and warm season grass acres as a result of this year's drought conditions.

Also, parts of Frederick County and Calvert, Montgomery, St. Mary's, Somerset, and Worcester counties were approved in Maryland.

"Approximately 687 acres of CRP in Washington County will be eligible to be hayed or grazed, however these acres have been affected by the drought and most likely will not be productive," Cashell said.

However, eligible livestock producers within the approved counties may conduct emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acreage from an eligible CRP participant in an expanded area within 210 miles of a county approved for emergency haying and grazing, she said.

The CRP participant must be willing to provide hay or haying and grazing under Emergency Haying and Grazing provisions and will be assessed a 10 percent reduction in their annual rental payment, Cashell said. CRP participants cannot rent or lease the haying and grazing privilege for an amount greater than the applicable payment reduction, she said.

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"This allows any CRP participant who has CRP acreage in that expanded area to permit producers from the seven approved counties to come in and hay or graze their acreage," said Cashell.

"CRP participants in the approved counties and the expanded area interested in opening up their CRP acres for Emergency Haying and Grazing should contact their local Farm Service Agency office," she said.

CRP participants must have prior approval by their county office before conducting any Emergency Haying and Grazing of CRP acres, she said.

To allow Emergency Haying and Grazing, a county must receive national approval by verifying the county has suffered at least a 40 percent loss of normal moisture and at least a 40 percent loss of forage for the preceding four-month qualifying period.

Washington County met these requirements as of the end of July.

"Livestock producers in the county are already purchasing hay from surrounding areas in order to replace what they lost this year," Cashell said.

CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land.

In years with normal weather conditions, eligible CRP acres may be hayed or grazed according to a management plan to improve the grass cover once every three years and participants are assessed a 25 percent reduction.

Interested farmers in Washington County should contact the Farm Service Agency at 1260 Maryland Ave, Suite 107, Hagerstown or call 301-797-0500, ext. 2, for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures, Cashell said.

More information is available on the Internet at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov

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