AGRICULTURE SECRETARY Ann M. Veneman has authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to provide relief for farmers and ranchers in qualifying areas suffering from this year's extreme drought.

“Emergency grazing on CRP acres will allow producers to provide additional feed and forage for their livestock,” said Veneman.

Much of the western half of the country has been impacted by severe drought conditions.

The secretary of agriculture may authorize emergency grazing of CRP acreage in response to a drought or similar natural disaster. In addition, managed haying and grazing of CRP acreage is allowed under certain conditions.

The announcement authorizes emergency grazing (including grazing during the nesting season) of CRP acreage, in eligible counties only, until Sept. 30, 2004. To be eligible, a county must have suffered at least a 40-percent deviation from normal precipitation, or be at a D3 or D4 level for drought as rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor.