WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the department to grant an emergency waiver for haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in Minnesota.

“Most of western and southern Minnesota is experiencing a severe drought, and there are no signs of improvement,” said Congresswoman Fischbach. “There are reports that herd culling is already being done around the region due to a lack of quality feed, and we need to take action to ensure the circumstances do not worsen. I join my colleagues in urging USDA to take immediate action to allow for haying and grazing on CRP lands.”

“We are very appreciative of Congresswoman Fischbach’s support for opening emergency haying and grazing on CRP land. Forage quality and drought concerns are worsening daily, and immediate action is needed for our producers across the state,” said Grant Breitkreutz, president of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association.

“Minnesota Farm Bureau appreciates the leadership of Congresswoman Fischbach and the Minnesota delegation strongly encouraging USDA to authorize emergency haying and grazing on CRP lands before August 1,” said Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. “The series of compounding weather events in 2021, from the late May freeze to the current drought conditions, has escalated the need for quality forage to properly care for livestock.”

“Many of the western states are experiencing extremely dry conditions and the upper Midwest has not been spared from this widespread drought. These drought conditions will soon cause challenges for Minnesota livestock producers as quality of the second cutting hay harvests and grazing lands deteriorates,” the letter reads. “To date, USDA has already authorized 29 counties for emergency hazing and grazing. However, unless access to additional pasturelands are made available, the scarcity and high cost of hay could force farmers and ranchers to liquidate their herds.”

Under current law, CRP lands cannot be used for haying and grazing in Minnesota before August 1. However, emergency waivers have historically been granted due to natural disasters such as a drought. Authorization to hay and graze on CRP lands is automatically triggered if the U.S. Drought Monitor classifies an area as being in a “severe drought” or worse for more than eight weeks.

The letter echoes a similar call from Minnesota’s largest agricultural advocacy groups, including the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

The letter can be found here.

Michelle Fischbach is a wife, mom, grandma, attorney, and the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District. Find updates from Rep. Fischbach’s congressional office on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.