Not all drought-stricken South Dakota farmers and ranchers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program will benefit from this week's decision by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to open-up wetlands for haying and grazing.
Hundreds of CRP acres owned by one rancher remain off-limits.
Sioux Falls veterinarian Mike McIntyre thought opening up CPR acres designated as wetlands was the perfect prescription to help ranchers like him battling drought.
"I just thought 'halleluiah,' life is great, everything's coming around, life is good. Dad went into the local FSA office the next day, called me with the bad news and I was like, this can't be real," McIntyre said.
It turns out, McIntyre will only be able to get hay from a small fraction of his CRP land north of Salem. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) says that's because much of the land serves as a narrow buffer to a wetland property that is not included in the latest government release. McIntyre says that leaves him only about 60 acres for haying, which is not nearly enough to feed his all livestock.
"It breaks my heart knowing that I might have to sell some of my cattle or do anything to cut down on my herd, just because somebody in Washington, D.C. won't let me use the feed I have sitting at my place," McIntyre said.
McIntyre has to mow the CRP land to keep the weeds under control. But any grass that's cut cannot be used to feed his livestock. Instead, it has to be destroyed. McIntyre says that's a waste of perfectly good feed.
"And I understand the government has rules and regulations, but at some point, this starts to become burdensome," McIntyre said.
McIntyre has been pleading his case to lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington. He wants other farmers to know that when it comes to relying upon CRP land for drought relief, the devil is in the details.
McIntyre remains hopeful that more of his 640 CRP acres will be opened for emergency haying, but he says time is running out because the hay loses much of its quality the longer it sits in the fields.
McIntyre is also making arrangements to buy 300 tons of hay from Canada.