By Sarah Meyer, Freedom New Mexico
The Farm Service Agency is pushing for more farmer-friendly grazing and haying rules on Conservation Reserve Program land.
The FSA is proposing rule changes that would allow managed haying once every five years and managed grazing once every three years.
About 100,000 acres in Curry County were re-enrolled in CRP in 2007 for 10-year contracts that allow managed haying or grazing once every 10 years, said Rachel Armstrong, FSA district conservationist in Curry County.
The proposed changes would apply only to lands enrolled in CRP after Sept. 25, 2006, and to existing CRP contracts that did not include managed haying and grazing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding meetings in 13 states to gather public input on the proposed changes, which will be used as part of an environmental assessment that could be used to justify more frequent haying or grazing.
There is a meeting in Clovis on April 10.
Wesley Grau, who farms near Grady and has land in CRP, said his acreage has to be managed or weed problems can develop, choking out the grass.
Pat Woods, who is on the board of directors of the Curry County Farm and Livestock Bureau, said using the land benefits the farmer with pasture or hay for cattle. Farmers forfeit a portion of the CRP payment for the time the land is used.
The current haying and grazing standards are the result of a lawsuit filed by the National Wildlife Federation, which claimed the USDA failed to conduct environmental assessment studies on the impact of previous grazing and haying standards, among other things.
Last year, farmers in eastern New Mexico received an average of $37 per acre for land in CRP, said Andrew Ortiz, Farm Services Agency conservation specialist who oversees CRP in New Mexico.
Most farmers in eastern New Mexico plant native grass on CRP land as part of their conservation plan, Ortiz said.
CRP pays farmers to take cropland out of production in order to improve soil and water quality and to provide wildlife habitat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Web site.
• Curry County has 742 CRP contracts.
• Roosevelt County has 855 CRP contracts.
• Quay County has 420 CRP contracts.
• These three counties have 481,361 acres in CRP — 85 percent of CRP land in New Mexico.
What: CRP public meeting
When: 1 p.m. April 10
Where: Best Western, 2912 Mabry Dr., Clovis.
Information: Andrew Ortiz, 761-4912.
Comments on the proposed rule change may be submitted by May 9 to: MHG EAs, Geo-Marine Inc., 2713 Magruder Blvd. Suite D, Hampton, Va. 23666-1572 or at http://public.geo-marine.com.