Federal agriculture officials visit drought-stricken ND

BISMARCK, ND (AP) – Federal agriculture officials continued their tour of drought-stricken North Dakota on Thursday to hear directly from farmers and ranchers on how one of the driest years in the world recent history affects their livelihoods.

U.S. Senator John Hoeven invited Agricultural Services Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux and Risk Management Agency Acting Administrator Richard Flournoy to visit the state. About two-thirds of the state is subject to extreme or exceptional drought conditions – the two main categories, according to the US Drought Monitor.

The two-day visit took the group to a Federal Agricultural Research Service grazing unit in Mandan on Wednesday with a second stop in Minot. Thursday stops are at Carrington and Argusville.

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, who joined the tour group, said a hay shortage is one of growers’ biggest concerns, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“It’s not going to be a good year anywhere,” he said. “We are asking for flexibility. If there is a total loss, can you take what is there and hay it.

Producers want to graze some failed crops but feel stifled by some of the rules in place, said Sterling farmer Lucas Lang, a member of the board of directors for the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

“We have to get the cows out on these crops that are slaughtered, and we have to do it without grazing or haying (insurance) penalties,” he said.

A plan to allow emergency haymaking on lands listed in the conservation reserve program before Aug. 1 is underway, Hoeven said. The program area is generally left unused to prevent erosion and provide wildlife habitat.

Ducheneaux ranches on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. He said any new program or adjustment must be done with a long-term perspective.


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