Congressman Frank Lucas applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision Friday to reduce the cost to use Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in Cimarron, Texas, and Beaver counties. The move follows a federal court decision that partially stifled the Critical Feed Usage (CFU) program, which allowed haying and grazing on 24 million acres of CRP land at a cost of only a $75 application fee. While the court allowed the program to continue for those who had filed the necessary paperwork by June 8, 2008, those who had not yet applied were barred from use of CRP.
“My office has been working closely with USDA to ensure that farmers and ranchers are able to survive through high feed costs and the devastating drought that has hit Oklahoma and other surrounding areas,” stated Lucas. “I applaud Secretary Schafer for his decision to reduce the cost the use CRP land for Cimarron, Texas, and Beaver counties. However I am extremely disappointed that this reduction isn’t available for all counties in Oklahoma.”
The Conservation Reserve Program establishes a ten year lease between the government and farmers and ranchers who own environmentally sensitive land, prohibiting the owners from using the land in exchange for a rental fee paid by the government. Under current USDA policy, the Secretary of Agriculture may release CRP land for haying and grazing if the owners return 25% of the rental fee. The Secretary’s announcement on Friday will reduce the cost to a 10% return of the rental fee, making this program a much more viable option for many farmers and ranchers.
“Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of our economy, providing us with some of the cheapest food prices in the world,” stated Lucas. “It is important that we do all that we can to assist them during their time of need. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Schafer and USDA to press for as much assistance as is available for them.”
Lucas will continue to work with USDA in an attempt to lower the fee for all counties in Oklahoma who were granted use of CRP land. Currently, all counties in Oklahoma except three have been granted emergency grazing use. Only Cimarron, Texas, and Beaver counties were granted both emergency grazing and emergency haying use, and have thus far been the only counties approved for the reduced fee.