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ICYMI: Senator Murray Pushes for More Relief Following Historic Wildfires, Droughts, Heat – MORE HERE 

Senator Murray: “I’m glad to see USDA taking steps to aid struggling livestock producers, and I encourage those who have been affected by this drought to contact their local Farm Service Agency office to start taking advantage of this flexibility.”

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) applauded the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent unveiling of relief for agricultural producers in Washington state facing extreme drought conditions, and encouraged agricultural producers affected by drought to seek relief. The announcement comes after Murray led a bipartisan and bicameral letter of Western lawmakers calling on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide any possible federal relief to producers in the wake of a historic heatwave and ongoing drought and wildfire season.

The USDA relief measure now permits agricultural producers impacted by drought to request haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in certain Washington state counties, while still receiving their full rental payment for the land. Interested producers with enrolled acres must first contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office before haying or grazing. You can find your local FSA HERE.

“I’ve heard from so many farmers and livestock producers in our state who are really hurting from this year’s severe drought conditions, and are in desperate need of support to help mitigate some of the financial losses they’re experiencing” said Senator Murray. “I’m glad to see USDA taking steps to aid struggling livestock producers, and I encourage those who have been affected by this drought to contact their local Farm Service Agency office to start taking advantage of this flexibility. As our farmers continue to grapple with more and more extreme weather amidst a full-blown climate crisis, I am going to keep working to support our state’s producers and to tackle the climate crisis head-on.”

Senator Murray has been instrumental in securing aid for Washington state agricultural producers. She recently secured over $7 billion for payments to producers to address 2020 and 2021 production losses due to droughts, wildfires, floods, and other qualifying natural disasters in the FY22 Agriculture Appropriations bill that recently passed the full Senate Appropriations Committee—and she is working to ensure that funding makes it into any final spending agreement. In addition to her recent letter to Secretary Vilsack, as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murray recently announced important technical and financial assistance available from the USDA to help farmers and livestock producers who have been impacted by the ongoing, severe drought recover.

More details on the USDA relief for agricultural producers are below.

Outside of the primary nesting season, emergency haying and grazing of CRP acres may be authorized to provide relief to livestock producers in areas affected by a severe drought or similar natural disaster.  The primary nesting season for Washington ended July 15. Counties are approved for emergency haying and grazing due to drought conditions on a county-by-county basis when a county is designated as level “D2 Drought - Severe” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. FSA provides a weekly, online update of eligible counties.

Producers can use the CRP acreage under the emergency grazing provisions for their livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage.

Producers interested in emergency haying or grazing of CRP acres must notify their FSA county office before starting any activities. This includes producers accessing CRP acres held by someone else. To maintain contract compliance, producers must have their conservation plan modified by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Emergency CRP Haying and Grazing Option

CRP emergency haying and grazing is available in eligible counties as long as the stand is in condition to support such activity subject to a modified conservation plan. Hay may be cut once in eligible counties each program year (October 1-September 30). Haying must be concluded prior to August 31 according to an approved conservation plan to allow time for regrowth prior to winter conditions and must be removed within 15 calendar days of being baled.

CRP emergency grazing is available in eligible counties as long as it does not exceed 90 days each program year (October 1-September 30) and must be stopped when the minimum grazing height is reached, as established within the modified CRP conservation plan or when the county is no longer eligible for emergency haying and grazing.

Non-Emergency CRP Haying and Grazing Option

For producers not in an eligible county, there are options available under non-emergency haying/grazing provisions outside of the primary nesting season, including:

  • Haying of all CRP practices, except for CP12 Wildlife Food Plots and several tree practices not more than once every three years for a 25% payment reduction. For non-emergency haying requests, 25% of the requested acreage must be left unhayed.
  • Grazing of CRP acres not more than every other year for a 25% payment reduction.

Livestock Forage Disaster Program Provisions

If Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) triggers in a county for 2021 grazing losses due to drought, the provisions for CRP emergency haying and grazing change.  There may be restrictions on grazing carrying capacity and on which CRP practices can be hayed. Washington currently has 23 counties where LFP has triggered and where certain CRP emergency grazing restrictions may apply.

USDA Disaster Assistance for Wildfire and Drought Recovery

Producers who experience livestock deaths due to wildfires and extreme heat (based on actual temperature and varies by state) may be eligible for the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).

Meanwhile, for both wildfire and drought recovery,  the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) provides eligible producers with compensation for feed losses as well as water hauling expenses associated with transportation of water to livestock. For ELAP, producers will need to file a notice of loss within 30 days and honeybee losses within 15 days.

Livestock producers may also be eligible for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for 2021 grazing losses due to drought. LFP benefits may be available for loss of grazing acres due to wildfires on federally managed lands on which a producer is prohibited, by a federal agency, from grazing normally permitted livestock. FSA maintains a list of counties eligible for LFP and makes updates each Thursday.

Additionally, eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for cost-share assistance through the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes or vines lost during the drought. This complements Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) or crop insurance coverage, which covers the crop but not the plants or trees in all cases. For TAP, a program application must be filed within 90 days.

FSA also offers a variety of direct and guaranteed farm loans, including operating and emergency farm loans, to producers unable to secure commercial financing. Producers in counties with a primary or contiguous disaster designation may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Loans can help producers replace essential property, purchase inputs like livestock, equipment, feed and seed, cover family living expenses or refinance farm-related debts and other needs.

More information on disaster assistance programs is available on farmers.gov, including the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster Assistance At a Glance brochure, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool can help producers and landowners determine program or loan options. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact their crop insurance agent. For FSA and NRCS programs, they should contact their local USDA Service Center.

Risk Management

Producers who have risk protection through Federal Crop Insurance or FSA’s NAP should report crop damage to their crop insurance agent or FSA office. If they have crop insurance, producers should report crop damage to their agent within 72 hours of initial discovery of damage and follow up in writing within 15 days. For NAP covered crops, a Notice of Loss (CCC-576) must be filed within 15 days of the loss becoming apparent, except for hand-harvested crops, which should be reported within 72 hours.

Assistance for Communities

Additional NRCS programs include the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program, which provides assistance to local government sponsors with the cost of addressing watershed impairments or hazards such as damaged upland sites stripped of vegetation by wildfire, debris removal and streambank stabilization. 

Eligible sponsors include cities, counties, towns, or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization. Sponsors must submit a formal request (via mail or email) to the state conservationist for assistance within 60 days of the natural disaster occurrence or 60 days from the date when access to the sites become available. For more information, please contact your local NRCS office. 

In addition to EWP, Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) is another valuable service that NRCS can provide following a wildfire. NRCS technical assistance can help fire victims with planning cost-effective post fire restoration practices. 

More Information

On farmers.gov, the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster Assistance-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool can help producers and landowners determine program or loan options. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact their crop insurance agent. For FSA and NRCS programs, they should contact their local USDA Service Center.

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