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- by Roger McEowen
On July 24, the Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that some producers may be able to hay and graze CRP land as part of the USDA's Critical Feed Use Program. While the court stated that USDA had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by determining that the Critical Feed Use Program would not damage the environment and, therefore, should have engaged in a risk-assessment study, the court's issuance of a permanent injunction does allow haying and grazing in certain circumstances.
For example, the injunction specifies that haying and grazing will be allowed on CRP land for which an application had been submitted before the court issued a temporary restraining order in the matter on July 8, for applications that are ultimately approved. Also, CRP landowners who had already received FSA approval to hay or graze the land before July 8 may proceed with haying or grazing. In addition, haying and grazing will be allowed on CRP land where the producer can establish detrimental reliance on utilization of the Critical Feed Use Program, and an investment of more than $4,500 in materials and equipment (made before July 8, 2008) necessary to prepare for haying and grazing.
On July 8, 2008, the Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order that stops grazing and hay production on approximately 24 million acres of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The court ruled that the USDA Secretary may not open CRP land without first preparing an environmental assessment. That decision was based on the court’s finding that the Ag Secretary’s decision to authorize haying and grazing could cause irreparable harm to wildlife habitat. National Wildlife Federation, et al. v. Schafer, No. CV08-1004-JCC (W.D. Wash. Jul. 8, 2008).