WASHINGTON– The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands located in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas after a directive by President Trump. Those three states have been heavily impacted by ongoing wildfires that began on March 6, 2017.
USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young issued a memorandum authorizing the emergency grazing of cattle by ranchers, who are facing the loss of their herds due to lack of sufficient grazing land.
“Ranchers are facing devastating conditions and economic calamity because of these wildfires and they need some relief, or else they face the total loss of their herds in many cases,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Young. “These measures will allow them to salvage what remains of their cattle and return to the important business of feeding Americans and the rest of the world.”
The USDA action is required to direct the Farm Service Agency to permit the grazing on lands covered by the Conservation Reserve Program, which exists to conserve and improve wildlife resources.
In this case, the grazing will overlap with the primary nesting season of the lesser prairie chicken. CRP has procedures in place, already developed with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to permit emergency grazing on protected lands during nesting season.
Ranchers and farmers are only now able to begin to estimate losses since the fires are still burning in some places. Access to the lands to survey the damage has been limited.
The USDA website has a full list of damages for Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.