Cattlemen Praise Court Decision on Release of Conservation Reserve Program Acres
DENVER – Cattle producers are applauding a court decision today to lift a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing haying and grazing on 24 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land.
The ruling was issued in response to legal action taken by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to contest the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision to allow haying and grazing on 24 million acres of CRP ground.
Judge John C. Coughenour of the United States District Court, Western District of Washington in Seattle, ruled today that there will be no cap on eligible acres for haying and grazing, and producers whose contracts had already been modified and approved for critical feed use can immediately proceed with haying and grazing and continue through November 10, 2008, as originally announced by USDA.
All applications to hay or graze CRP acres that were filed but not approved before the July 8, 2008 restraining order will now be processed, and producers will be subject to shorter usage periods. The haying period will end on September 30, 2008, while the grazing period will end on October 15, 2008. Additionally, producers that can document a reliance on the critical feed usage program as well as an investment of more than $4500 to prepare for haying and grazing of CRP acres are eligible to submit new applications.
“This was the right decision for America’s cattle producers,” said Andy Groseta, a cattle producer from Arizona and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). “We’re pleased that the court listened to NCBA’s arguments and agreed that reversing USDA’s decision would place undue hardship on our ranchers.”
NCBA joined a coalition of America’s farmers and ranchers to file an Amici Curiae brief in support of USDA’s decision to allow for haying and grazing. More than 50 producers submitted declarations to NCBA to be used in the brief, demonstrating that reversing USDA’s decision would cause severe economic harm to the many cattle producers who have made major capital investments to prepare ground to feed their cattle.
Cattle producers have already invested over $800,000 in equipment, water, leases and fencing according to the submitted declarations.
Additionally, NCBA filed two more declarations on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 from producers who planned to file for contract modifications to allow for haying and grazing on their CRP acres, but had not yet done so before the court put in place the temporary injunction.
“Cattle producers are businesspeople who rely on government policy to make informed business decisions,” said Groseta. “Reversing USDA’s decision at this late date would cause enormous financial losses. NCBA was proud to work with our state affiliates and other coalition members to fight what could have been a terrible blow to the cattle industry.”
The coalition filing the brief included: the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in conjunction with Idaho Cattle Association, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Nebraska Cattlemen, New Mexico Cattle Growers, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Washington Cattlemen’s Association, Washington Cattle Feeders Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).