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Farmers who plant cover crops on prevented plant acres will be permitted to hay, graze or chop those fields earlier than November this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) adjusted the 2019 final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1 to help farmers who were prevented from planting because of flooding and excess rainfall this spring.

The earlier deadline will significantly increase the quantity and quality of feed available to livestock producers who feared that planting delayed by wet weather conditions would leave them without enough options to feed their stock.

"Farmers are in need of options and common-sense flexibility given this year's disaster situation, where we have millions of acres of farm and rangeland impacted," said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota in a statement. "The changes announced by the USDA will go a long way toward providing farmers and livestock producers with options to address the forage situation in many parts of the country."

Mitch Davis, of the Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and Minnesota farmer, said the decision-makers at USDA and the many lawmakers who pressed this issue deserve much credit for listening to farmers and recognizing the unique challenges they're facing this growing season.

"The wet spring has made the risk of a shortage of livestock feed for the coming year very real for many of our dairy farmers throughout the Midwest who are struggling to get a crop in," Davis said. "This will give all livestock producers options to deal with the extraordinary conditions."  

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Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said the one-time adjustment would help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year.

“This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall,” Northey said.

RMA has also determined that silage, haylage and baleage should be treated in the same manner as haying and grazing for this year. Producers can hay, graze or cut cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres on or after September 1 and still maintain eligibility for their full 2019 prevented planting indemnity.

“These adjustments have been made for 2019 only,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “RMA will evaluate the prudence of a permanent adjustment moving forward.”

USDA also announced that the Farm Service Agency will be extending the deadline to report prevented planted acres in select counties, and that the Natural Resources Conservation Service will hold special sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to provide cost-share assistance in the planting of cover crops on impacted land.

For more information visit https://bit.ly/2xk0gkl or contact your local FSA office.

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