June 02, 2011

Bingaman & Udall Applaud USDA for Granting Emergency Grazing Permit to Ranchers in Five Additional N.M. Counties

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved an emergency application that allows ranchers from Harding, Lea, Quay, Roosevelt and Union counties to graze their livestock on lands not typically used for grazing. The senators wrote a letter of support for the application.

Due to severe drought and wildfires, there is little forage available for livestock grazing. As a result, Bingaman and Udall wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to quickly approve a request to allow ranchers from the following counties to graze their livestock on Conservation Reserve Lands: Colfax, Union, Harding, Quay, Guadalupe, De Baca, Curry, Roosevelt, Lea, Torrance and Santa Fe. Last week, the Senators announced approval of emergency grazing of 154,685 acres in Curry County for a total of 422,738 acres in a total of six counties.

"This is good news for ranchers whose livelihoods have been hurt by this devastating drought. I applaud the USDA for moving quickly to assist our state's agriculture industry during this difficult time," Bingaman said.

"With increased drought and rising temperatures, New Mexico's agriculture industry is suffering. I am pleased that the USDA has listened to our concerns and is offering some relief to our ranchers," Udall said.

The senators' letter to Vilsack is as follows:

May 23, 2011

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We are writing respectfully to urge you to give immediate consideration of approving CRP emergency grazing in the eleven counties in the State of New Mexico with General CRP acreage. The eleven counties are Colfax, Union, Harding, Quay, Guadalupe, De Baca, Curry, Roosevelt, Lea, Torrance, and Santa Fe. The entire State of New Mexico continues to suffer through a catastrophic drought, with most of these counties currently listed on the U.S. Drought Monitor in extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought conditions.

As a result of the severe drought and continuing high winds, there is virtually no forage available for grazing. Producers are running out of reserve hay and are purchasing supplemental feed for their livestock. There have been a number of wildfires in the eastern part of the state resulting in the loss of several thousand acres of grazing land. In addition, many of the available CRP acres have a large fuel load of old grass cover and there is concern of additional fires. As a result, some producers are starting to liquidate their herds. Emergency grazing on CRP land would help ranchers manage their herds through the ongoing drought and sustain this vital industry in our state.

In light of the ongoing losses and the possible long-term impacts of the drought, we urge you to approve emergency CRP grazing in New Mexico.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of our request.