U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour has ruled that livestock producers should be allowed to use at least 2.5 million acres of noncritical Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for haying and grazing, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) announced. The ruling rejects calls for a ban of USDA’s Critical Feed Use (CFU) initiative.

NPPC, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association jointly filed a brief highlighting the significant losses livestock producers are facing due to rising grain prices, and the need for the CFU initiative to help farmers access feed and help save their farms in the process.

A week ago, the federal court issued a temporary restraining order immediately halting haying and grazing on CRP lands for critical feed use, at the request of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other state wildlife federations.

In denying an extension of the injunction, Judge Coughenour stated: “There are substantial competing hardships, whose impact could be devastating to citizens who trusted their government was acting legally in implementing the CFU initiative, as well as to the nation and the world economy at large, if the court issues the injunction that plantiffs urge.”

Instead, the judge ordered the NWF and USDA to form a compromise plan aimed at relieving the hardships of livestock producers, and 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 about $1.2 billion. This additional hay would free up large quantities of other commodities currently in short supply and lower input prices for all livestock producers, regardless of their participation in the initiative, NPPC says.

NPPC board member Doug Wolf, a hog and cattle producer from Lancaster, WI, praised the ruling. “This is a significant victory for pork producers who face not only losses as a result of volatility on grain markets, but tremendous uncertainty over securing adequate supplies of feed. The court’s decision to allow this land to be hayed and grazed could free up an estimated 105 million bu. of corn, or a 10-15% increase in carryover stocks of grain, providing the certainty producers need to continue operating.”

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