In response to a worsening drought, two USDA agencies and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are increasing efforts to assist Missouri farmers in need of feed and forage for their livestock.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is doubling the original $2 million it had available to help farmers plant cover crops that could be grazed or cut for hay. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has approved additional assistance, including haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acreage. And DNR, through local soil and water conservation districts, is funding the planting of cover crops on cropland that can be used for grazing and haying.

NRCS State Conservationist J.R. Flores said he is pleased that NRCS’ $4 million total assistance could offer some relief. However, he said that a huge demand is forcing NRCS to move up the deadline for considering new applications for this round of funding. He said that only applications received by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 1, will be eligible.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Flores said. “We already have more than 1,000 applications from farmers in counties with drought conditions rated as extreme. Just funding those applications would require more money than we have available.”

Flores said NRCS is still accepting requests for Compatible Use Authorizations to allow owners of wetland easements to cut hay on up to 50 percent of the grass areas within those easements.
Kim Viers, acting Missouri FSA State Executive Director, said additional practices are eligible for emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in 49 approved counties for fiscal year 2018.

“Eligible producers who are interested in emergency haying and grazing of CRP must request approval before haying and grazing eligible acreage and must obtain a modified conservation plan from NRCS that includes haying and grazing provisions,” Viers said. “Current provisions allow grazing on 100 percent of a field, up to the 75 percent stocking rate.”

Producers in 30 Missouri counties also are eligible to apply for benefits through FSA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). LFP compensates eligible livestock producers who suffer grazing losses for covered livestock due to drought. ELAP provides emergency relief for producers who have incurred additional operating costs for transporting water to livestock due to drought.

In addition, the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), which provides emergency funding for farmers and ranchers to implement water conservation measures during severe drought, has been implemented in 22 Missouri counties.

Flores and Viers encourage farmers and ranchers to contact their local USDA Service Centers for more information about any of the drought assistance programs available in their areas.