North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU) is urging U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to open Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for emergency haying and grazing due to widespread drought.

“Livestock producers need help now,” said NDFU President Mark Watne. “Feed supplies are deteriorating fast, hay is in short supply due to last year’s harsh winter, and ranchers are facing the difficult decision of whether to downsize their herd. It is an emergency situation.”

The National Drought Mitigation Center currently lists severe drought conditions in and around the Missouri River Basin in North Dakota. Similar conditions exist in Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota.

Watne said spotty rainfall across the region has helped alleviate the drought somewhat, but it isn’t significant enough to reverse long term impacts. “Producers and their livestock need relief now,” he emphasized. “Delaying the opening of CRP until August, as typically is the case, will be too late. The grass will have very little nutritional value, if any.”

NDFU was one of four Farmers Union states that signed on to a letter by National Farmers Union, urging the Secretary to address the significant drought situation in the Upper Great Plains.