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USDA Opens CRP Land for Livestock Producers

posted on May 30, 2008

USDA announced Friday that agricultural exports are expected to reach a record $108.5 billion in fiscal year 2008. That's up about 32 percent from last year. Grains and animal products account for two-thirds of the gains. Exports to China are forecast to reach a record $10.5 billion, up more than 60 percent from 2007.

Agricultural IMPORTS also are predicted to increase, to a record $78.5 billion, yielding a positive U.S. agricultural trade surplus of $30 billion.

The favorable export picture is due, in part, to a weak U.S. dollar which makes American commodities cheaper overseas. The numbers also demonstrate the impact of sharp increases in grain and oilseed prices.

But that's not been a welcome development for livestock producers who are coping with sky-high feed costs. This week the government intervened on behalf of the livestock industry.

USDA Opens CRP Land for Livestock Producers USDA officials announced a new move this week to expand the use of environmentally sensitive land known as the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. The decision will open CRP land for haying and cattle grazing after birds have finished summertime nesting. USDA Secretary Ed Schafer says the move should help livestock operations struggling with higher feed costs.

CRP began in 1985 as a method of encouraging landowners to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production. Landowners received an average $50 per acre last year, totaling nearly $2 billion in government payments.

In recent years, many farmers and ranchers have responded to high commodity prices by pulling land out of CRP and placing it back into production. In mid-April, 34.6 million acres of land were enrolled in CRP. According to USDA, current enrollment is down 2 million acres from last year.

Some agriculture groups have lobbied USDA to allow "penalty-free" releases of CRP land in the coming years – a decision Sec. Schafer has said could come as early as August.

Under fire from environmental interests and wildlife groups concerned with too much CRP usage, USDA officials emphasized that the "most vulnerable CRP land is not eligible for either haying or grazing."

Tags: agriculture animals conservation livestock news USDA