May 26, 2011

Udall & Bingaman Applaud USDA for Granting Emergency Grazing Permit to Ranchers in Curry County

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 Curry County to graze their livestock on federal 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. So far, USDA has granted approval for 154,685 acres in Curry County, but the senators are hopeful approval for the other counties will be forthcoming.

"This terrible drought is taking a toll on our state's livestock industry. I appreciate that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has moved quickly to aid ranchers in Curry County by approving this emergency grazing application," Bingaman said. "I hope the USDA reaches the same conclusion for all 11 counties."

"Extreme drought across New Mexico is hurting ranchers and our entire agriculture industry. I am pleased the USDA has swiftly approved this aid to ranchers in Curry County and would encourage all those who qualify to take full advantage of this assistance," 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.