Congressman Mac Thornberry is pleased that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) have waived the haying and grazing fee on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage in 25 counties in the 13th Congressional District. Producers whose pastures and/or hay production were severely damaged by the wildfires last week will not be subject to a reduction in their CRP rental fee if they decide to hay or graze their CRP acreage. The waiver also applies to those within the 25 counties with CRP who wish to donate the haying or grazing to an affected producer.

The counties included in this relief are: Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Childress, Collingsworth, Cottle, Dallam, Donley, Gray, Hall, Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Motley, Ochiltree, Oldham, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher and Wheeler.

“Hopefully the fee waiver will immediately provide greater use of CRP acreage within these counties to help with the urgent livestock feed needs across the area,” Thornberry said.

Subject to local authority and oversight, the USDA waiver will also apply to controlled burns or similar measures on CRP acreage within the 25 counties. Approval for burning, haying, grazing or any modifications to existing CRP cover will be authorized by the county FSA office on a case-by-case basis after consulting with local officials. Producers should check with their local FSA office for further details.

Even though an earlier request in January by Thornberry and the Texas Farm Service Agency to permit emergency haying and grazing of CRP across the entire state was granted, the magnitude of the Texas Panhandle wildfires prompted Thornberry to push for the fee waiver and other measures.

“I still believe it makes sense to apply the fee waiver wherever there have been extensive wildfires across the state and will continue to urge USDA to do so,” Thornberry said. Thornberry has also drafted legislation, which would provide compensation for livestock lost in the wildfires as well as cost-share assistance for fence repair. If passed, the legislation would cover losses in 2005 or 2006.

“Wildfires are just as destructive as hurricanes and these folks should have the same options available to them as those affected by Katrina and Rita,” Thornberry said.