Dale Rodman, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture is asking USDA to extend emergency haying and grazing in Kansas because of ongoing severe to exceptional drought in western Kansas.
In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rodman urged the agency to extend emergency haying and grazing for land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program through Nov. 30, as was done in 2012, without ranchers incurring penalty in the form of rental payment reduction.
"While parts of Kansas have benefited from much-needed rainfall, there are many portions of the state that remain in a severe drought situation," said Rodman. "It is incumbent upon us as public officials serving farmers and ranchers to take immediate and necessary action to provide relief in times of disaster situations, specifically the ongoing, three-year drought."
Access to forage could likely prevent liquidation of cattle herds
Rodman noted that there are 2.15 million acres enrolled in CRP in Kansas. Permitting farmers and ranchers to continue accessing this critical forage could very likely be the difference between maintaining a cowherd or facing liquidation.
The eastern two-thirds of Kansas has moved out of drought status as a result of heavy rainfall from mid-June to mid-July. Rains totaled more than 20 inches in south-central Kansas and triggered widespread flash flooding and river flooding in the eastern part of the state.
Western Kansas, however, got only sporadic rainfall during that period, which was followed by 100-degree heat and strong winds in late July and August, worsening the drought across the western part of the state.
While many ranchers have been forced to liquidate cattle herds because of a lack of forage and water, some have managed to hold on to the core of cattle herds in the hope of being able to re-enter the industry when conditions improve.
Being able to utilize the limited grass or hay on CRP acres makes the difference between holding on and liquidating for many of those ranchers.