Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced a measure to provide livestock in drought-affected states with needed additional hay and forage.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage eligible for emergency haying and grazing in Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee has been expanded to include land in an area radiating 210 miles out from all counties previously approved for emergency haying and grazing.

"We are closely monitoring the drought and providing assistance when we can," said Johanns. "Emergency haying and grazing is a helpful tool for livestock owners and I'm pleased to make it available to more farmers and ranchers."

CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land. The expansion permits approved CRP participants to cut hay or graze livestock on CRP acreage, providing supplemental forage to producers whose pastures have been negatively affected by drought.

To be approved for emergency haying or grazing, a county must be listed as a level "D3 Drought — Extreme" or greater according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html , or have suffered at least a 40 percent loss of normal moisture and forage for the preceding four-month qualifying period. USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) state committees may authorize emergency haying or grazing of CRP land in counties currently listed as level D3 drought CRP participants who want to apply for emergency haying and grazing to their local FSA office must wait until after the nesting season for certain birds.

Only livestock operations located within approved counties are eligible for emergency haying or grazing of CRP acreage.

CRP participants who do not own or lease livestock may rent or lease the grazing privilege to an eligible livestock farmer located in an approved county.

Producers with CRP acreage that is hayed or grazed will be assessed a 10 percent reduction in their annual rental payment.

Maps relating to this announcement and more information on emergency haying and grazing are available at local FSA offices and online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=crp-eg.

USDA offers a number of programs to assist producers affected by drought or other natural disasters. More information is available on FSA's Web site, http://www.fsa.usda.gov ; click on Disaster Assistance Programs.