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USDA approves emergency CRP grazing for ranchers impacted by wildfire

Announcement follows urging from Walden for action

by Oregon Congressman Greg Walden Sept 12, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA announced this week that it has authorized emergency use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for livestock producers who lost pastures, BLM grazing land, or fences due to wildfire this summer in Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, and Union Counties. According to the announcement, producers may apply to their local Farm Services Agency (FSA) office no later than Sept. 30 to temporarily move their livestock to CRP land for no more than 60 days. No payment reduction applies to this authorized exception and no funds are otherwise authorized for water, feed, or other costs.

The USDA announcement comes on the heels of an August 16 letter (attached) from Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns urging that the department authorize emergency use of CRP land for livestock producers affected by both wildfire and drought, and a meeting the congressman convened in his capital office on Sept. 6 with several high-ranking USDA officials, including:

·        FSA Administrator Teresa Lasseter

·        FSA Conservation and Environmental Programs Director Robert Stephenson

·        USDA Congressional Relations Assistant Secretary Linda Strachan

“When I called last month for the USDA to do more for the people devastated by extreme drought and catastrophic wildfire in eastern Oregon, this is certainly part of what I had in mind and I appreciate the Secretary’s willingness to provide much needed resources to these areas,” Walden said. “Unfortunately, this emergency use of CRP land for grazing is limited to people who have been devastated by wildfire and does not include those who have been devastated by drought. They should be included as well. I will continue to urge that all affected livestock producers receive the disaster assistance they deserve from the federal government; after all, agriculture is the backbone of Oregon’s rural economy.”

Following a number of meetings Walden held in eastern Oregon this summer with affected ranchers, he sent the August 16 letter asking the USDA to release and make available as soon as possible excess funding in the Emergency Conservation Program for those impacted by drought and wildfire in eastern Oregon. USDA responded by making available $120,000 for those in Baker and Wallowa Counties, but Walden said much more aid would be needed for the region. In a Sept. 6 letter, Walden asked the USDA to expedite the disaster declaration requests made by the state for Baker, Harney, Union, Klamath, Malheur, and Wallowa counties.

Walden has also requested a roundtable meeting with regional officials from the FSA, United States Forest Service, BLM, and Natural Resources Conservation Service, along with community leaders and those who make their living off the land early next year to develop a plan to address next year’s wildfires in the hope that streamlined policies and procedures will result in solid communication and quick response to concerns when the emergency hits. The letter requesting that meeting is attached as well.

Congressman Greg Walden represents the Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and a member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

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