By Edward Hutschenreuter
Farmers with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) may now have a new environmentally beneficial option for satisfying their contract requirements.
On November 9, Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri introduced the “CRP Grazing Flexibility Act” (H.R. 4298), which would allow farmers to graze livestock on their enrolled CRP acreage as an authorized mid-contract management practice. This legislation aligns with NACD’s farm bill requests and is supported by research.
For instance, rangeland mangers and scientists have found that managed grazing keeps non-native plant species at bay, allowing for native and desirable grass and wildflower to regenerate. Other research has found the practice boosts biodiversity by attracting species that prefer grazed fields, and curbs the risk of wildfire by keeping fuel loads low.
Currently, approved CRP management practices are supported by a USDA cost-share program and include burning, chemical burning, and disking. This bill would add grazing to the list of authorized practices for CRP acreage; however, grazing would not be eligible for cost-share payments. Instead, livestock producers would be able to reap the benefits of grazing under guidelines determined by each state’s technical committee.
In a press release issued by Hartzler’s office, NACD President Brent Van Dyke said “Agricultural producers know nationwide that livestock grazing done right can actually improve the health of America’s soils.”
“This bill would allow grazing as an alternative mid-contract management practice when and where appropriate on CRP lands without reducing rental payments. From every perspective—scientific, economic, societal, you name it—it just makes good sense to allow grazing when it produces the same or better results for our soils and wildlife habitat.”