BREAKING: Following Heitkamp’s Push, USDA Opens Lands for Haying to ND Farmers, Ranchers Hit Hard by Drought

USDA Announcement Comes Less Than One Week After Senator’s Visit to Bowman Where She Promised to Keep Pushing to Open Up CRP Lands for Haying

U.S. Sen. Heitkamp (ND-D)

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today announced that after her months-long push on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) leaders to do everything they can to support North Dakota ranchers in drought-stricken areas – including opening up more Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying to help ranchers access forage before it loses its nutritional value – the agency heeded her call, opening up CRP lands for haying within 150 miles of severe drought areas.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of Heitkamp’s meeting in Bowman with North Dakota ranchers, local leaders, and experts about solutions they need to address the challenges they face related to the drought. At the meeting, Heitkamp committed to continuing to press USDA to open up CRP lands for haying just as she did two weeks ago when she and the federal delegation successfully pressed USDA leaders to take bold action to help drought-impacted farmers and ranchers in North Dakota by designating agricultural disasters in counties in the state that have been severely impacted by drought. That designation opened up Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster relief programs that Heitkamp pushed for in the Farm Bill, including emergency loans, to North Dakota farmers and ranchers. Producers in eligible counties have eight months to apply for emergency loans.

“Our farmers and ranchers are tough – and have seen it all when it comes to weathering severe heat or cold, but just as ranchers told me last week in Bowman, they rarely, if ever come toe-to-toe with droughts of this magnitude, and the time for emergency federal resources is well past due,” said Heitkamp. “Just as I told ranchers on the ground in Bowman, I’ve been fighting for months to make sure USDA opens up the lands for haying that they need to graze their cattle – which so many were prevented from doing on their own lands. It’s their voices and their stories I’ve been delivering over and over to USDA officials – and I’m glad today the agency heeded our call, opening up lands within 150-miles of severely drought stricken areas, which have swallowed up too many of our counties so far. As we look ahead to preparing for heat waves in the weeks ahead, I’ll keep pushing to make sure our farming and ranching community gets the support they need to weather this drought.”

At Heitkamp’s meeting at the Bowman Auction Market last week, she unveiled her push on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen to announce the notice that would allow ranchers to defer paying capital gains tax for a two year period on the sale of cattle due to the ongoing severe drought which has stretched for months across nearly 50 percent of the state. Throughout North Dakota, the drought has caused ranchers to pay top dollar for hay trucked in from neighboring states. With little rain on the horizon, ranchers have been forced to sell their livestock much earlier and at lower prices than usual. Click here to read Heitkamp’s letter to IRS Commissioner Koskinen.

Last month, Heitkamp launched a webpage aimed to provide useful information that can help connect North Dakota farmers, ranchers and community members with the federal, state, and local resources – from haying and grazing options to tax information to mental health services – to help them cope and weather this drought. Click here to view Senator Heitkamp’s webpage.

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