Iowa farmers will be able to continue grazing cattle on Conservation Reserve Program acres until Nov. 30 under a two-month extension announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said extension of the emergency grazing is intended to free up forage and feed for cattle producers as they struggle with high prices for hay and corn going into the fall and winter.
The USDA is permitting farmers and ranchers in drought stricken states that have been approved for emergency grazing to extend grazing on CRP land through Nov. 30 without incurring an additional CRP rental payment reduction. The period normally allowed for emergency grazing lasts through Sept. 30.
The extension applies to general CRP practices, and producers must submit a request to their Farm Service Agency county office indicating the acreage to be grazed.
Vilsack on Wednesday also designated 147 additional counties in 14 states as natural disaster areas, with 128 counties in nine states due to drought. In the past seven weeks, USDA has designated 1,892 counties in 38 states as disaster areas, with 1,820 due to drought.
Hay prices have soared from $75 a ton in the spring to as much as $260 a ton in July and August. Hay auctions in Dyersville and Fort Atkinson have begun accepting CRP grass and hay, but lower quality has been an issue that affects demand and price.
The U.S. Drought Monitor report shows 63 percent of the nation’s hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 72 percent of the nation’s cattle acreage is experiencing drought.
Approximately 86 percent of the U.S. corn crop is within an area experiencing drought, down from a peak of 89 percent on July 24, and 83 percent of the U.S. soybeans are in a drought area, down from a high of 88 percent on July 24.
During the week that ended Sunday, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that 52 percent of the U.S. corn crop and 38 percent of the soybean crop were rated in very poor to poor condition, while range land and pastures rated very poor to poor remained at 59 percent for the fourth consecutive week.