Minnesota leaders seek drought aid for livestock producers
ST. PAUL, Minn. – On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to come to the aid of Minnesota livestock producers amid the worsening drought by easing grazing restrictions. Walz asked Vilsack in a letter released Thursday to allow emergency haying and grazing on eligible Conservation Reserve Program acres in Minnesota counties experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions.
He said hay is going to be in short supply. Minnesota’s two U.S. senators and five representatives from rural districts sent a similar request.
“Agriculture is the past, present, and future of Minnesota’s economy. We must do everything we can to address the challenges our farmers and ranchers are facing due to the severe drought conditions plaguing our state. That’s why I’m asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture for assistance,” Governor Walz said in a press release. “The USDA’s ongoing support of Minnesota’s agricultural industry is well-recognized across the state, and with their continued assistance, our livestock producers will have a brighter outlook as we endure these harsh conditions and look forward to a thriving future.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 98% of Minnesota is now in a drought, with 52% of the state in a severe or extreme drought.
The letter can be read in full below:
July 14, 2021
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I am writing in support of an implementation plan to allow emergency haying and grazing on eligible Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in Minnesota counties experiencing Level D2 or greater drought conditions. Granting immediate access to these acres will reduce forage pressures on Minnesota’s livestock producers.
The urgency of this request cannot be overstated. The quality of forage on CRP lands continues to deteriorate under drought conditions and delaying access until August 1 will eliminate the advantages of the resource. If producers cannot get quality feed to their livestock, they will have no other options than to sell animals or purchase hay to haul in.
In May, much of the state was struck by a hard freeze which set forage production back considerably. By June, the entire state was listed under D0-D1 drought conditions. As of July 8, nearly 40% of the state is suffering under D2 Level drought. As you are aware, the cattle market has been battered by the impacts of the pandemic which led to decreased forage reserves now available to producers.
I am grateful for your prompt action in monitoring and responding to the severe drought conditions Minnesota’s livestock producers are facing, including the opening of prevent plant acres for early harvest. However, to relieve the immediate impacts of drought on grazing land, and keep Minnesota producers operating, I am requesting the opening of CRP lands to emergency haying and grazing in Minnesota counties experiencing drought at D2 levels or greater with immediate effect.
Your ongoing support of Minnesota’s agricultural industry is well-recognized, and we appreciate the work of the USDA in our state. With your help, our farmers and ranchers will have a brighter outlook as we endure these harsh conditions and look forward to a thriving future.