Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback sent a letter this week to U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting improved drought response. Many of the concerns expressed by Brownback were voiced by farmers and ranchers during his recent tour of drought-stricken southwest Kansas.
One major concern was a lack of communication related to crop insurance. Farmers especially were frustrated having to continue applying irrigation water to a failing or failed crop until insurance adjusters arrive. The governor suggested USDA encourage approved insurance providers to respond as quickly as possible to producers who have submitted a potential notice of loss.
Brownback’s letter also raised the issue of how USDA declares a drought. Currently, the federal agency requires several months of drought conditions, as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor, before producers are eligible to receive disaster benefits. The drought “clock” is reset at the beginning of each year. Brownback recommended to Vilsack that USDA accounting of drought durations continue from one year to the next.
In addition, the governor requested more flexibility for haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. His suggestions to improve flexibility include waiving the 25% payment reduction for emergency haying and grazing on CRP, expanding the 300’ mowed or tilled buffer to protect buildings from wildfires, allowing CRP grass mowed for fire buffers to be fed to livestock and permitting CRP acres to be mowed and baled in non-drought areas if it is donated as feed for livestock in drought areas.
Meanwhile, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Kansas announced yesterday it will allow emergency haying of CRP in seven additional southwest Kansas counties. This brings the total to 28 counties now eligible for haying on CRP, while 40 counties are eligible for emergency CRP grazing. Emergency haying and grazing is not allowed on the same acreage. Haying in approved counties will be allowed through August 31. Grazing will be allowed through September 30. Contact your local FSA office for further information.
For more information visit www.kla.org.