USDA says producers in 33 Panhandle area counties impacted by recent wildfires can utilize Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage for haying and grazing. The designation allows the removal of dry grass on, and movement of cattle onto, CRP acreage, without facing charges for grazing value or the baled value of removed forage.

The six Oklahoma counties are: Washita, Canadian, Jefferson, Custer, Cleveland and Osage. The 27 Texas counties include: Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Childress, Collingsworth, Cottle, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Donley, Gray, Hall, Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Motley, Ochiltree, Oldham, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher and Wheeler.

The wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma have burned more than one million acres, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said Tuesday. "USDA will assist producers who need to immediately relocate livestock from burned pastures by opening CRP acreage to them. This action will also have an added benefit of helping to lower the risks of additional wildfires," he added.

CRP participants in these counties can remove excess dry grass on enrolled land, which will help reduce fire potential. Farm Service Agency (FSA) local offices will authorize CRP participants to remove the dry grass for the next 30 days on a case-by-case basis.

Producers also can bale CRP grass to create firebreaks and reduce potential fire threats. Any cover removed must be destroyed or donated to local livestock producers whose range or pasture have been destroyed by wildfires, USDA says.

In addition, many livestock producers have lost much rangeland, pastureland and fences. FSA offices will grant permission on a per-case basis for CRP participants in these counties to move cattle to CRP land for the next 60 days. Only livestock producers who lost pasture or fences to the wildfires are eligible.

FSA also will provide cost-share assistance to producers whose CRP land was hit by the wildfires. The cost-share is for reseeding damaged fields that wouldn't regenerate without reseeding.

For more info, visit disaster.fsa.usda.gov/fsa.asp. -- USDA release