(Note: This applies to 18 states!)

Release No. 0287.02 Alisa Harrison (202) 720-4623 Jillene Johnson (202) 720-9733

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2002 - Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today approved 18 states for Conservation Reserve Program emergency haying and grazing statewide, making all CRP participants in these states basically eligible for this emergency measure. Veneman also said USDA will waive rental reduction fees to encourage donation of hay to farmers and ranchers in immediate need.

"Drought and severe weather conditions have depleted hay stocks and grazing lands across the country," said Veneman. "This approval provides immediate relief to livestock producers and encourages donations of hay to producers who need immediate assistance."

The 18 approved states are: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming. State Farm Service Agency committees may limit the area within the states if conditions do not warrant haying and grazing in all areas.

USDA previously authorized counties in states most stricken by severe weather conditions to be considered for haying and grazing, but approval was on a county-by-county basis. Since May, over 300 counties in 15 states have been approved for haying and/or grazing. Today's announcement makes CRP participants statewide in the 18 states eligible if the state committee determines conditions warrant release without waiting for county approval.

CRP participants must submit applications for individual approval to their local FSA offices. Haying and grazing is authorized until Aug. 31, 2002, or until disaster conditions no longer exist, whichever comes first. Land devoted to certain special practices will not be eligible for haying and grazing because of environmental considerations.

CRP participants who are unaffected by disasters or do not own or lease livestock can make their CRP acreage available for grazing or can donate hay to those in need. USDA has developed a website for producers to list information concerning the need for available hay. The website address is: .

CRP annual rental payments will be reduced 25 percent to account for the areas hayed or grazed unless the hay is donated. At least 50 percent of the CRP acreage must be left unhayed and 25 percent left ungrazed. Hay harvested from CRP acreage may not be sold.

CRP offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving cover on eligible land. USDA will monitor producers and regulate approvals to ensure the land is safely hayed and grazed without damaging conservation covers.

USDA has other programs to assist drought stricken producers, including emergency farm loans, federal crop insurance, the emergency conservation program and the noninsured crop disaster assistance program. For more information and eligibility requirements on USDA disaster assistance, producers should contact their local FSA office or visit FSA's website at:

Conservation Reserve Program -- Emergency Haying and Grazing Questions and Answers

July 11, 2002

1. Why is USDA making this announcement?

USDA has monitored conditions through the spring and summer. In addition to other USDA programs to mitigate the effects of drought and excessive moisture, FSA released some CRP acreage for grazing on May 22, 2002, and for haying on July 2, 2002. However, conditions have not substantially improved and in some cases continue to broaden.

2. What does this announcement do?

This announcement makes regions of the country eligible to hay or graze their CRP acreage. The severity and extent of the damage is such that FSA has determined there is no need for state and local offices to justify approvals on a county-by-county basis.

3. What states are included?

The 18 states eligible are: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

4. Are there any limitations applicable to this announcement?

USDA's Farm Service Agency has delegated to its state committees the authority to limit the area within the state covered by this authority if conditions do not warrant haying or grazing. Also, land devoted to certain practices is not eligible.

5. How does this apply to other areas of the country?

Areas not covered by this announcement may seek haying or grazing authority on a county-by-county basis if they have suffered a 40 percent deviation in normal moisture. In these cases, FSA headquarters office responds within one workday.

6. Are there other provisions?

To provide for the protection of wildlife, haying and grazing participants must not hay or graze certain highly desirable environmental acreage, such as filter strips, water ways and riparian buffers. Participants will receive a payment reduction equal to 25 percent of their annual rental payment.