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Fed opens some CRP to haying, grazing

07/11/2012 @ 1:26pm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is easing restrictions on grazing and haying on lands designated for conservation, part of a response to the severe drought gripping the Midwest.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that annual rental payments for farmers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program who use those lands for emergency grazing and hay production will be reduced to 10% from 25%. The effort is intended to "provide greater flexibility" to farmers, the agency said.

State officials from Indiana to Missouri have asked the agency this month to allow for grazing on CRP lands, as extreme heat and a lack of rain have reduced pasture land.

The USDA announced two other drought-related measures, including a streamlining of the process in which the department issues natural-disaster declarations. Under the new rule, any county that is categorized by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in severe drought for eight consecutive weeks is automatically declared a disaster area, a move that will designate 1,016 counties in 26 states disaster areas effective Thursday. Other changes will reduce the time it takes to declare a disaster area, the agency said.

The agency also will lower the current interest rate on emergency loans to 2.25% from 3.75%.

-Write to Ian Berry at ian.berry@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 11, 2012 14:05 ET (18:05 GMT)
DJ USDA Eases Conservation Grazing Restrictions, Designates Disaster Areas->copyright

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