A judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington handed down a final decision on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Critical Feed Use Program on July 23. Agricultural organizations called the decision a "win" for farmers and ranchers who will be able to proceed with haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acreage.
The court issued a narrow permanent injunction to allow producers with approved Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts to continue operations through the programs original November 10 deadline. Farmers and ranchers who sent applications but have not received approvals will also have their applications processed. If approved, those producers may hay until September 30 or graze until October 15.
Farmers and ranchers who have not yet sent applications may do so provided they submit in their application a statement explaining their reliance on the Critical Feed Use program. The reliance statement should indicate whether the producer made investments or preparations of $4,500 or more and provide documentation. If the contract is approved, those producers also will be able to hay until September 30 or graze until October 15.
The court order was a result of legal action by the National Wildlife Federation. Critical Feed Use was authorized by USDA on May 27 for certain CRP acreage to be available for hay and forage after the primary nesting season ended for grass-nesting birds. More than 24 million acres of land were made eligible for Critical Feed Use to provide feed and forage to help alleviate the escalating price of feed for livestock producers. (Contact: Charlie Ingram)