WASHINGTON — U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour ruled July 17 livestock producers can utilize at least 2.5 million acres of noncritical Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for haying and grazing, rejecting the calls for a ban of USDA’s Critical Feed Use (CFU) initiative.
The decision was based largely on a brief filed by the several national agriculture groups in response to the National Wildlife Federation’s lawsuit regarding the USDA’s initiative.
Last week, at the request of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and several state wildlife federations, the court issued a temporary restraining order immediately halting farmers and ranchers from haying and grazing on CRP land for critical feed use until the court considered the issue further.
The opposing brief, filed by the National Pork Producers Council, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, pointed out the losses livestock producers are suffering due to recent spike in grain prices and the need to rely on the Critical Feed Use initiative to avoid irreparable harm to their business and possible loss of their farms from a lack of feed.
In declining to extend the injunction, Judge Coughenour stated, “There are substantial competing hardships, whose impact could be devastating to citizens who trusted that their government was acting legally in implementing the Critical Feed Use initiative, as well as to the nation and the world economy at large, if the court issues the injunction that plaintiffs urge.”
He ordered the National Wildlife Federation and USDA to come up with a compromise designed to mitigate the hardships of livestock producers, suggesting that at least 2.5 million acres of CRP land be released for haying and grazing.
According to USDA estimates, the CFU initiative will generate around 18 million tons of hay, worth approximately $1.2 billion.