Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) has reported that western and southern Minnesota is experiencing severe drought right now. In fact, in some places herd culling is being done due to a lack of quality feed and farmers are making other operational changes to mitigate future losses in production.
“There are resources available to farmers, ranchers, businesses, and communities impacted by this natural disaster,” Fischbach said.
On July 15, Fischbach and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the department to grant an emergency waiver for haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in the state.
“To date, the USDA has already authorized 29 counties for emergency grazing. However, unless access to additional pasturelands are made available, the scarcity and high cost of hay could force farmers and ranchers to liquidate their herds,” said Fischbach.
Under current law, CRP lands cannot be used for haying and grazing in Minnesota before Aug. 1. However, emergency waivers have historically been granted due to natural disasters such as a drought. Authorization to hay and graze on CRP lands is automatically triggered if the U.S. Drought Monitor classifies an area as being in a “severe drought” or worse for more than eight weeks.
Fischbsach also indicated that the letter echoes a similar call from Minnesota’s largest agricultural advocacy groups, including the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.
Long-term damage from drought includes forage production loss in pastures and fields, and increased wind erosion on crop fields not protected with soil health practices.
According to the USDA Drought Monitor, on July 18, Minnesota led the Midwest with 63% of its pastures rated in very poor to poor condition, along with 42% of its spring wheat, 34% of its oats, 33% of its barley, 18% of its corn, and 17% of its soybeans. Minnesota also led the Midwest on that date, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with topsoil moisture rated 78% very short to short.