Friday, May 30, 2008

CRP for Hay and Grazing

You may have heard the news about the USDA deciding to allow 24 million acres of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) to be used for hay and grazing after the early June wildlife nesting period. So, by the middle of June farmers and ranchers who have a portion (or all) their land in CRP will be able to use it for grazing and haying. The idea is that it will help ease the pain that the beef producers (high grain prices). Although the announcement was welcomed by many there are also plenty of people against it, and I'm not just talking about the hunters and wildlife people. You can read an article from the Brownfield Network titled, "Opinions vary on CRP haying, grazing decision," by clicking on the link. There is also an audio report at the bottom of the page.

I for one am none too pleased! Especially considering the fact that I just spent close to $10,000 last week so that I could make hay on and graze the land that I already owned. I knew that was going to be the case going into the land purchase, but that doesn't mean that I like it (you can read more on the CRP Buyout on this older post). My big problem ... with a little bit of paperwork and a $75 fee you can graze or hay or both your CRP ground and still get your full payments! I think that is just dumb, especially after I just wrote my check to buy it out (although they would have to continue the program for 5 more years in order it to work for me).

Some hay producers in Iowa aren't very happy about it either. One custom baler (who also owns 400 acres of hay ground) said on the WHO Radio Big Show yesterday that his phone has been ringing off the hook since this announcement came out. The reason for all the phone calls? They are coming from farmers who have CRP (or who think the hay prices will drop because of the news) and also have some hay ground. If they have a marginal stand of hay that isn't as good as it could be they want to cut it and get it off the field right away so they can then come in and plant beans.

My states Ag Secretary Bill Northey didn't think any thing like that would happen, but apparently he was wrong. So, let me break it down for you. If instead of just the 40 acres that I own now I also owned another 40 acres of pasture ground that I used for my cattle I would now be able to throw them on a dry lot for a couple weeks, till under my pasture and charge someone $150 per acre to plant beans, move my cows over to the CRP in the middle of June, still collect $85 (or whatever) per acre on my CRP, in the fall after the beans come out I can seed it back to some sort of grass, and over the winter I can feed some hay that was less expensive than the year before. Sounds like a pretty big deal ... if you love your government spending lots of money.



Rich said...

As you may have guessed from some of my previous comments, I generally have a pretty low opinion of the CRP program. If the land that was enrolled in CRP was actually prone to erosion and would be "damaged" by grazing in "normal" years, then how can releasing CRP for haying and grazing in drought years or years of high grain prices be justified? If grazing won't do any appreciable damage this year, then it probably won't do damage in any other year. Is CRP supposed to protect highly erodible land or is it supposed to be used to allow Washington bureaucrats a way to somehow manipulate the price of land, beef, hay, and grain (while providing some token wildlife habitat in "good" years)?

I think the whole CRP program is a waste of money, seemingly designed to increase the acreage invaded by invasive species like cedar trees while providing passive income to absentee landowners.

Art Blomquist said...

The "Government" doesn't have any money. It just redistributes ours.

Ethan Book said...

True, true ... not giving money, just redistributing!

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