Tester, Baucus work to secure drought assistance for Montana producers

Senators call on the USDA to allow grazing of conservation lands across county lines

(BILLINGS, Mont.) – With a growing number of Montana counties impacted by historic drought, Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are calling on the USDA to ramp up assistance for Montana producers.

Tester and Baucus want the USDA to temporarily allow haying and grazing on lands set aside under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in areas of the state where the drought has not been as pronounced.

Tester and Baucus recently successfully pushed the department to allow haying and grazing on CRP land.  But USDA rules only allow emergency haying and grazing on land in the same county, where CRP land often suffers from the same conditions as the nearby ranchland.

“Drought does not observe county boundaries, and so a degree of flexibility in responding is appropriate and necessary,” the two senators wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  “We urge you to allow drought impacted producers to utilize emergency haying and grazing of CRP land elsewhere in the sate so that the program can most effectively offset feed shortages.”

The senators also requested that the department approve requests for emergency haying and grazing in counties where the drought monitor levels do not accurately reflect the severity of actual drought conditions.

Earlier this month, Tester and Baucus successfully urged the USDA to speed up processing of disaster assistance requests and provide additional financial assistance to Montana farmers and ranchers affected by wildfire and drought.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that this year’s drought is the worst in the United States since the 1950s.

Tester’s and Baucus’s letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is available online HERE.