SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota agriculture officials and Congressional lawmakers are advocating for the haying of conservation reserve program (CRP) acres to provide much needed hay for livestock, said state ag secretary Hunter Roberts.
“Right now DII (drought level) counties are open (to grazing) but haying is not allowed yet,” Roberts said on Tuesday morning.
The USDA did announce Tuesday afternoon that it would allow ag producers with crop insurance to hay, graze or chop cover crops for silage or hay and still receive 100% of prevented planting payment, according to S.D. Republican Sen. John Thune’s office.
The state is also seeking to help South Dakota livestock and ag producers by advocating for other federal relief programs such as access to drilling for new wells, Roberts said.
Within the state, Gov. Kristi Noem declared an emergency to allow for the cutting of ditches for livestock hay east of the Missouri River.
Roberts said as of the morning of July 6, 83% of the state was in a DII or DII drought and more than 90% was in a DI drought.
“Things are dire. It’s the worst I’ve seen it in a very long time,” Roberts said.
Rain fell in parts of the state on July 5 and July 6 with more predicted in some areas on July 6.
The rain will help but “Do I think it’s a game changer? No,” Roberts said.
The state’s wheat crop is one example. Most of that crop is already gone because of the drought, Roberts said.
The grass in pastures is nearly grown and drought has negatively impacted that grass, he said.
In terms of hay and grass for livestock producers, “we’re going to need a lot more rain going forward,” Roberts said.
He’s hopeful that corn, soybean and row crops can improve because of recent rain.
“They have a good opportunity to bounce back…,” Roberts said. But that depends on the rain.
The state’s Governor’s Agriculture Summit is Thursday and Friday in Sioux Falls. Roberts said the drought will be a topic of discussion. The Federal Service Agency’s (FSA) new administrator Zach Ducheneaux, who is from South Dakota, will be at the summit.
Roberts said Ducheneaux has a planned question and answer session, which will likely include questions about the drought.