In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) asked for the release of Conservation Reserve Program acres in South Dakota for haying and grazing in light of recent drought conditions.
Thune reported touring areas in southwestern South Dakota that have been affected by fires and drought. Thune said timely availability of additional pasture and hay is of immediate concern.
"South Dakota's number one industry is agriculture and sheep and beef cattle add more than $2.8 billion to South Dakota's economy. As you are aware, it takes foundation livestock producers years to recover from forced breeding herd liquidation and downsizing, which is what many South Dakota livestock producers are facing due to drought conditions," Thune wrote.
South Dakota currently has more than 1.1 million cares enrolled in the CRP, and while the land provides habitat for wildlife, Thune said that a portion of the land could be used to alleviate grazing shortage in South Dakota. While he acknowledged that fewer acres were available in western South Dakota, he said allowing use of the acres was imperative.
"I strongly urge you to consider using the administrative authority you have available to release as many CRP acres as possible for emergency haying and grazing in South Dakota," he wrote. "Making appropriate land enrolled in CRP across the entire state available for haying and grazing to livestock producers within the state would be of considerable benefit."
Thune cited the findings of the most recent Drought Monitor, which reported that six western South Dakota counties were at D2, or severe drought conditions and nearly all of South Dakota was at D0 or D1, abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions. Thune said conditions have worsened and are expected to continue that trend.
Keep up on the drought
Farm Progress is pooling all the coverage of the drought from across the country into a single place - www.DatelineDrought.com - where you can see a daily video from Max Armstrong, Farm Progress director of broadcast, and Farm Futures Senior Editor Bryce Knorr, along with national, local and regional coverage of the ongoing drought across the heart of the country.