The Conservation Reserve Program, a USDA cost-share and rental payment program designed to help reduce overgrazing, soil erosion, loss of wildlife habitat and other conservation issues, has opened for emergency haying and grazing use in Callaway County to help drought-stricken farmers.
Darrell Campbell, Callaway County executive director of USDA's Farm Service Agency, made the announcement when all but about four counties in the state had been released for emergency haying and grazing due to the severe drought.
Under normal conditions, farmers complying with CRP standards are restricted to using only one-third of their land for grazing or haying, or may use the whole acre once every three years. This is done to prevent overgrazing and other problems stemming from overuse of the field, and farmers benefit through a rental payment deduction.
This emergency access opens up additional percentages of that land for use to help producers struggling to find forage for their livestock, so long as at least half of each field or contiguous is left unhayed for wildlife, and at least 25 percent of each field or contiguous field is left ungrazed.
"Yesterday at last count we had 23 people already requested it be released, and we just got approved Monday," said Campbell, who added that approximately 18,000 acres in Callaway County are under CRP. "I have no idea how many people we've even talked to today."