Drought assistance available for ranchers, growers
LAKE COUNTY — Local producers and ranchers may see some aid for drought conditions in Lake County.
Lake County is among seven Montana counties that have been authorized for emergency haying and grazing use of Conservation Reserve Program acres due to drought. Producers who wish to hay or graze their CRP contract acres must sign up and be approved in their local FSA office prior to any emergency haying or grazing activities occurring, but were authorized to start by July 16.
Haying must be completed by Aug. 31. Producers may not sell their hay, but they may donate it. Those with CRP acres are authorized to graze the land with their own livestock or grant use to another livestock producer, but all livestock must be removed from the CRP acres by Sept. 30, 2015. There is no payment reduction for CRP acres used for haying and grazing under these emergency provisions, according to Bruce Nelson, state executive director of Montana Farm Service Agency.
However, this emergency measure doesn’t effect many ranchers in Lake County — roughly a half-dozen people with less than 200 CRP acres, according to Ed Dougherty, FSA representative at the Lake County office in Ronan.
“We don’t have a lot of conservation reserve,” he said. “The majority of our contracts are in practices that aren’t eligible for this.”
Most CRP lands in Lake County are located in small areas around wetlands or riparian buffers along streams, he explained.
“It will help a couple of people, but not a game-changer for the valley and the situation,” Daugherty said.
But there is a livestock feed program in the works to offer cash assistance to livestock producers for loss of grazing on dry land, according to Daugherty.
That was confirmed Wednesday when the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Lake County a primary disaster area along with 14 other counties. This declaration allows farm operators in these designated counties to be considered for assistance from the Farm Services Agency to recover from losses as a result of a natural disaster.
“This declaration will provide much needed assistance to agriculture producers that have seen or will have significant crop damage or loss,” Governor Steve Bullock said of the declaration in a press release.
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the disaster declaration to apply for an emergency loan. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with more information. More information can be found at: http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov Information about using Conservation Reserve Lands can be found at the local FSA office, 64352 Highway 93, Ronan, 406-676-2811, or online at: www.fsa.usda.gov/mt