US Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts and US Congressman Roger Marshall praised the US Department of Agriculture’s approval to allow grazing of Conservation Reserve Program lands to aid ranchers that were affected by the March 6 wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
"I appreciate the Department allowing Kansas ranchers who have lost their rangeland due to the largest wildfire in our state’s history access to timely, deliverable assistance," said Roberts in a press release. "Producers in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas are struggling to feed what is left of their herds. They need all the help they can get."
The counties affected by the wildfires in Kansas were Ford, Clark, Comanche, Ellis, Ellsworth, Hodgeman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Meade, Ness, Russell and Seward. "Ranchers need every available acre of grass to feed the surviving cattle," said Moran in a press release. "Allowing emergency grazing of CRP acres will give producers additional options as they search for grassland for their livestock.
"I appreciate USDA’s continued attention on relief efforts and will continue to urge them to utilize every tool available to assist families devastated by the fires." The total estimate of the devastation had come to 630,000 acres burned with about 3,000 to 9,000 estimated loss of livestock as well as a large number of hay bales and agricultural fencing destroyed.
"This allowance delivers much-needed relief to producers in the impacted counties," said Marshall in a press release. "I applaud the recognition and action from President Trump and the USDA to continue providing relief, in addition to providing support and guidance for producers in programs like the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Conservation Program and the Livestock Forage Program."
Moran recently met with Acting USDA Secretary Michael Young to discuss the impact that wildfires put on farmers and ranchers and the challenges they will be facing. Young then issued a memorandum authorizing the emergency grazing of cattle by ranchers.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall also praised the authorization
According to a press release from the Kansas Farm Bureau, USDA officials told AFBF they stand ready to work with Colorado farmers and ranchers should their governor make a similar request to the department.
"Farmers and ranchers have lost thousands of head of cattle and swine from wildfires this spring," Duvall said in a press release. "Blazes have caused millions of dollars in damage to their homes, farm structures and fencing.
"More than a million acres of prime grazing land has been reduced to ash. So we are especially grateful that President Trump and USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young have taken this first action to help farmers and ranchers in this time of extreme need.
"We know ranchers who have lost almost everything they had, and it’s only April. Summer is yet to come.
"The emergency provisions of the Conservation Reserve Program are essential in times like these.
"We are hopeful that Congress will pay special attention to wild land fire management issues as it begins the hard work of producing a budget for 2018."
Contact your local Farm Service Agency officer if you are a producer wishing to graze on CRP lands already enrolled in contracts with USDA.