USDA drought aid offers producers some relief

By QCC Staff

By QCS Staff
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has expanded eligibility in six eastern New Mexico counties for livestock producers to qualify for drought aid under a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative to open Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage, according to an announcement by U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.  

The USDA announcement will give livestock producers in Union, Harding, Quay, Curry, Roosevelt and Lea counties more opportunities to access grazing and hay for their herds. The decision also expands eligible CRP acreage to 150 miles out from any county approved for emergency haying and grazing.

The 150-mile limit from county lines is not affected by state lines, said Brandon Terrazas, assistant to the state director USDA , Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Terrazas said the USDA’s announcement also meant that the penalty producers would pay for use of their CRP lands would be reduced from 25 percent to 10 percent.

To be eligible, a county must have suffered at least a 40-percent deviation from normal precipitation, or be at a D3 or D4 level for drought as rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Today’s action will allow approved CRP participants to cut hay or graze livestock on CRP acreage, or provide supplemental forage to producers whose pastures have been hurt by drought.

County eligibility for emergency grazing will be determined after consultations between the FSA state committees and the NRCS state technical committees. 

      CRP producers place their land in retirement in order to improve environmental conditions. The program aids in erosion prevention, wildlife protection, and water quality improvement.

New Mexico currently has 487,000 acres under CRP.
Total number of acres in CRP in Quay County is 115,674, Terrazas said.

These acres represent 459 contracts with producers. However, a rancher or farmer may have more than one of those contracts because a contract represents a single tracts of land, and a producer may have several different acreages under CRP.

In his statement, Domenici said, “I am glad the USDA is offering relief to livestock producers by opening access to CRP lands.

“New Mexico has faced many hardships with the prolonged drought, a situation exacerbated by the fact we have had virtually no measurable precipitation the first half of this year. The drought, compounded by wildfires, has cut into the forage available to keep some ranch operations viable.”

  Late last month, Domenici announced that the USDA was providing $1.09 million in Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) assistance to farmers in De Baca, Guadalupe, Lea, Mora, San Miguel and Union counties to overcome damage caused by wildfires and drought.

This included $852,000 for wildfire recovery in De Baca, Guadalupe, Lea, Mora, San Miguel and Union counties, and $240,000 is for drought recovery work in Mora and San Miguel counties.

New Mexico’s FSA director, Rick Lopez, said in a statement, “I’m extremely pleased with the decision to expand CRP emergency grazing in New Mexico. 

As the state continues to suffer from drought this type of assistance is crucial to helping our ranchers manage their operations efficiently.  Despite the recent moisture the state has received, the danger of wildfires is still a very real threat.  Allowing grazing of CRP land not only helps reduce this fire danger by reducing forage but also alleviates some of the cost of having to supplemental feed.

 “In New Mexico, Lea, Roosevelt, Curry, Quay, Harding, and Union counties are approved for emergency grazing.  However, with the 150 mile radius expansion, Colfax, De Baca, and Mora counties are also eligible,” he said.