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For Immediate Release: July 25, 2012
Contact: Jeffrey Beach
(609) 292-5531

(TRENTON) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today encouraged New Jersey agricultural producers to investigate whether they can benefit from new flexibility and assistance in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's major conservation programs designed to get much-needed help to livestock producers in light of the most widespread U.S. drought in seven decades.

Secretary Fisher added that the USDA has encouraged crop-insurance companies to voluntarily provide a grace period on unpaid insurance premiums until November 1, 2012, in order to give farmers hard hit by drought conditions a chance to catch up. Three conservation programs are affected by the temporary changes. They are:

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

USDA is allowing additional acres under CRP to be used for haying or grazing under emergency conditions. CRP is a voluntary program that provides producers annual rental payments on their land in exchange for planting resource conserving crops on cropland to help prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitat and improve the environment. CRP acres can already be used for emergency haying and grazing during natural disasters to provide much needed feed to livestock. Given the widespread nature of this drought, forage for livestock is already substantially reduced. The action will allow lands that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Allows farmers and ranchers to modify current EQIP contracts to allow for prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, water conservation and other conservation activities to address drought conditions. EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers on their land to address natural resource concerns on agricultural and forest land. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work closely with producers to modify existing EQIP contracts to ensure successful implementation of planned conservation practices.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

Authorizes haying and grazing of WRP easement areas in drought-affected locations where such haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. WRP is a voluntary conservation easement program that provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers to restore and protect valuable wetland resources on their property. For producers with land currently enrolled in WRP, NRCS has expedited its Compatible Use Authorization (CUA) process to allow for haying and grazing.

In addition, the following change is being encouraged by USDA for all crop-insurance companies:

To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, USDA will encourage crop insurance companies to voluntarily forego charging interest on unpaid crop insurance premiums for an extra 30 days, to November 1, 2012, for spring crops. Policy holders who are unable to pay their premiums in a timely manner accrue an interest penalty of 1.25 percent per month until payment is made.

For more information, please call your regional NRCS or FSA office. Their phone numbers can be found at: