ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz has asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to come to the aid of Minnesota livestock producers amid the worsening drought by easing grazing restrictions.
Walz asked Vilsack in a letter released Thursday to to allow emergency haying and grazing on eligible Conservation Reserve Program acres in Minnesota counties experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions. He said hay is going to be in short supply.
“Granting immediate access to these acres will reduce forage pressures on Minnesota’s livestock producers,” the governor wrote. “The urgency of this request cannot be overstated.”
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and U.S. Reps. Michelle Fischbach, Angie Craig, Pete Stauber, Tom Emmer and Jim Hagedorn sent a similar request to Vilsack on Thursday, warning that the scarcity and high cost of hay could force Minnesota farmers and ranchers to liquidate their herds.
The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers to take environmentally sensitive land out of production and plant it with cover crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows haying and grazing on those acres before Aug. 1 in emergencies such as severe droughts.
The updated U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows that 98% of Minnesota is now in a drought, with 52% of the state in a severe or extreme drought, and conditions are expected to grow dryer.