Representative Kristi Noem today urged U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to immediately release all South Dakota CRP acres for haying. The letter was sent in the wake of South Dakota’s worsening drought conditions, which, among other things, has resulted in a serious feed shortage.

“The drought in South Dakota is already serious, and is only getting worse,” said Noem. “The counties that are already in drought conditions have lost their hay; the rest are in danger of that outcome. If South Dakotans are forced to wait until conditions worsen, they will lose yet another essential source of feed for their herds. Allowing the haying of acres enlisted in the CRP would give farmers much-needed relief during this difficult time.”

FULL TEXT:

June 12, 2017

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Perdue,

During your recent visit to my home state of South Dakota, you saw a snapshot of the incredible work being done in our agricultural industry. You also heard directly from producers about the struggles and barriers they face to feeding our nation and the world. Today, I write on behalf of many of those same farmers and ranchers with another urgent concern. Most of South Dakota is experiencing drought conditions. This has resulted in a serious feed shortage, leaving farmers no choice but to downsize their herds.[1] To avoid lasting damage to the agricultural industry in South Dakota, is imperative that you issue a secretarial order to immediately release all South Dakota acres enlisted in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for haying.

Let me be clear: the situation is dire. The drought in South Dakota is already serious, and is only getting worse. According to the National Drought Mitigation Center’s (NDMC) Drought Monitor, only 13 of South Dakota’s 66 counties remain unaffected. The remainder of the state, particularly the north central section, are experiencing “severe drought” conditions.[2] The NDMC further states that moderate drought “now covers the majority of North Dakota as well as northern South Dakota, and severe drought (D2) was introduced.”[3] A news article in Agweek, citing your agency’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, said that 40 percent of my state’s pastures were in “poor or very poor condition.”[4] Similarly, 65 percent of the alfalfa hay in the state has been rated “poor or very poor.”[5]

From what I am hearing from my South Dakota constituents, conditions are worsening, and the damage is starting to affect their every decision, specifically the decision to downsize. The dry weather to date this year has led to poor grass growth, resulting in feed shortages. Farmers are being forced to sell yearlings and cow calf pairs to make ends meet.[6] News reports have detailed these difficult decisions, with one producer quoted as saying, “People are hanging on … Nobody anticipated feeding cattle this long. If we don’t get rain in the next week to 10 days, there’s even more pairs that will have to be moved.”[7]

I understand that CRP is not traditionally released for haying in situations like that which South Dakota faces, with the official drought level not yet considered extreme. I further understand that typically, CRP is released after the last hatch. However, it is important to remember that the Drought Monitor’s assessment may not fully reflect a drought’s true impact. With South Dakota livestock producers going on record in the press, calling the situation “very grim,” we must listen to those who are experiencing it firsthand. [8] They tell me that time is of the essence, and that we cannot wait to act. This is why I am requesting that you immediately release all CRP acres for haying across South Dakota, not just those currently experiencing drought. The counties that are already in drought conditions have lost their hay; the rest are in danger of that outcome. If my constituents are forced to wait until conditions worsen, they will lose yet another essential source of feed for their herds. Allowing the haying of acres enlisted in the CRP would give farmers much-needed relief during this difficult time.

I thank you for your commitment to supporting farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and across the country. I encourage you to demonstrate this commitment by assisting those affected by this drought. If you have questions, please contact my staff at 202-225-2801.

Sincerely,

KRISTI NOEM

Member of Congress



[1] Schlecht, Jenny. “Drought conditions lead to herd trimming?” Agweek, June 8, 2017. http://www.agweek.com/news/nation-and-world/4280417-drought-conditions-lead-herd-trimming

[2] Drought Mitigation Center. U.S. Drought Monitor, South Dakota. Week of June 6, 2017. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?SD

[3] Drought Mitigation Center. National Drought Summary for June 6, 2017. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/Narrative.aspx

[4] Schlecht.

[5] National Weather Service. “Drought Information Statement.” June 8, 2017. http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=ABR&issuedby=ABR&product=DGT

[6] Id.

[7] Associated Press. “Cattle producers adapting to drought in Aberdeen area.” Capital Journal, June 9, 2017. http://www.capjournal.com/news/cattle-producers-adapting-to-drought-in-aberdeen-area/article_80c3549c-4cdb-11e7-aa6f-87cd12ba9d3c.html

[8] Schlecht.

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