BILLINGS, MONT. – The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), sent a letter to US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on May 13 to consider opening up 24 million acres of land that is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

The letter said it was to help alleviate the backlog in the live cattle supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has reduced slaughter capacity. 

The group estimated that 500,000 more fed cattle are currently backed up in feedlots with no immediate prospects for harvest. 

“By opening CRP lands to emergency grazing, America’s cow/calf producers, backgrounders, and stockers can potentially slow the conventional time continuum from weaning to slaughter long enough for the bottleneck between the feedlots and packers to be eased,” the letter said. “This could well eliminate any present or future need to euthanize any cattle prior to their scheduled harvest for food consumption.”

The letter indicated that the beef industry is faced with the urgent need for more grazing land than normal at the same time that some grazing lands are producing less forage that normal due to drought.

“This feed cattle backup requires the entire upstream live cattle supply chain to hold lighter weight cattle out of the feedlot sector of the supply chain until the current backlog of cattle can be processed,” R-CALF said. “To hold these lighter weight cattle back, more grazing land than normal is needed to maintain their health and measured growth.”