Skip

Kansas Technical Committee Minutes | August 2, 2012

Kansas Technical Committee Minutes - August 2012

Kansas Technical Committee (KTC) Meeting
Thursday, August 2, 2012
via electronic mail

Due to the current exceptional circumstances of extreme drought, the Kansas Technical Committee (KTC) expedited the process with state conservationist Eric Banks' approval, using electronic mail (email). The Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) requested input from the KTC by email on August 2, 2012, to authorize emergency having and grazing of the following selected Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Practices:

CRP Practice Kansas Acres Enrolled
 as of June 2012
CP8A Grass Waterways, Noneasement 9,813
CP23 Wetland Restoration 6,663
CP23A Wetland Restoration, Non-Floodplain 3,452
CP27 Farmable Wetlands Pilot Wetland 664
CP28 Farmable Wetlands Pilot Buffer 1,262

The following requirements also apply:

  1. The payment reduction for emergency haying and grazing is reduced from 25 percent to 10 percent
  2. Haying is approved through August 31, 2012, no extension permitted
  3. Grazing is approved through September 30, 2012, no extension is permitted
  4. Haying and grazing is not permitted within 120 feet of a stream or other permanent water body
  5. Prior to implementing any form of haying or grazing, a conservation plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) must be developed taking into consideration the existence of protected species

The following responses were received from KTC members:

*****

Carla, as a KTC member the Division of Conservation, KDA, and on behalf of the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, we vote yes to support the outlined emergency response initiative by USDA to allow haying and grazing on the additional CRP acres identified in the attached listing of practices. Thank you for your efforts to assist the Kansas Livestock producers.

If you need something more formal, let me know.

Greg A. Foley
Executive Director
Division of Conservation, Kansas Department of Agriculture

*****

Jean, I was asked to respond on Harold's behalf since he is out of state. I understand the extreme conditions but do not think they should be allowed to remove more than 50% of the acreage on any area. Also believe that the 50% should be left adjacent to a wetland or stream if one is located within the CRP acreage. On the waterways, it should probably be left down the center where erosion is most likely to occur. This should help keep most of the conservation benefits and still leave areas for wildlife that have been depending on the cover during the winter.

John Bond (KAWS.ORG)
2157 10th Road
Clay Center, Ks 67432
785-560-4846

*****

Unprecedented drought is a little too much hyperbole for me. The area currently known as Kansas has seen similar, if not worse, heat and dry conditions in the past 500 years, as periodic drought is believed to have been one of the driving forces maintaining treeless grasslands. That being said, it appears to me that most of the acreage requested for emergency haying and grazing are wetland acres, which to my knowledge are not heavily utilized by prairie-chickens. Thus, losing this residual cover for overwintering will likely have minimal impact on prairie-chickens. Therefore, I vote in favor of authorizing emergency haying and grazing for the additional CRP practices referenced by your email.

Jeff Keating
Partnership Biologist
Fort Riley, Kansas
785-239-8022

*****

I have no objection to emergency haying or grazing.

--Doug Helmke (dhelmke@krwa.net)

*****

Because of the need for an expedited response from NRCS TCH-Kansas Technical Committee, I am responding for Jaime Gaggero, Chief, Watershed Management Section, Bureau of Water, Kansas Department of Health and Environment. We concur with the proposal for emergency controlled grazing and haying of CRP land involving wetlands. We also appreciate the condition that if grazing is proposed, the producer is required to have a conservation plan and the added requirement not to graze within 120 feet of a water body. I did not see Ms. Gaggero’s name on the email list in the original email announcement, please add her. JGaggero@kdheks.gov. Thank you.

Regards,
Scott

Scott L. Satterthwaite
Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Bureau of Water, Watershed Management Section
1000 S.W. Jackson St., Suite 420
Topeka, KS 66612-1367
Phone (785) 296-5573
FAX (785) 296-5509
ssatterthwaite@kdheks.gov
Check out our web site! www.kdheks.gov/nps

*****

In response to FSA’s request for written approval from State Technical Committee members regarding opening additional acres for emergency haying and grazing, Kansas Farm Bureau approves and encourages the use of acres enrolled in practices CP8A, CP23, CP23A, CP27,CP28, CP37 and CP41. Any available forage that can be made available to livestock producers under these extreme drought conditions should be examined and likely approved. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Steve M. Swaffar
Director of Natural Resources
Kansas Farm Bureau
800 SW Jackson, Suite 1300
Topeka, KS 66612
swaffars@kfb.org
785-234-4535

*****

If I’m figuring correctly, we’re talking about 22,000 ac +/-. I’m assuming the acres are spread out across the state? Also, can you remind me about a conservation plan – does it require take 50%, leave 50% of a field, or leave a certain stubble height? I would not object to the proposal (unless my acreage assumption is way off) as long as there are some restrictions i.e. – can’t hay all the grass or graze into the ground. Grassland nesting birds are in dire straits, too.

Maybe I should ask: How many acres are currently available for emergency haying and grazing in Kansas? And, what % of those acres do you expect will be hayed or grazed? If there are already a large number of acres available – I might have another opinion! Let me know if you have questions.

Thanks,

Jim (jim_hays@TNC.ORG)

*****

As a member of the Kansas Technical Committee, the Kansas Water Office supports approving the additional CRP practices for emergency haying and grazing as described in the August 2, 2012 memo from NRCS.

Thank you,

Susan Metzger
Chief of Planning and Policy
Kansas Water Office
(785) 296-3185

*****

On the behalf of KDWPT, we offer the following input as requested concerning haying and grazing on previously ineligible Conservation Practices: The Department recognizes the extreme conditions facing Kansas producers due to the drought and supports efforts to alleviate shortages of hay and other forages while mitigating potential negative impacts to wildlife. During these difficult times it becomes clear how important having CRP on the landscape is to deal with forage shortages and provide critical habitat and refuges to help wildlife survive prolonged droughts such as this that could otherwise lead to their decline. CRP is truly a safety net for producers and wildlife.

The mitigation measures set forth in the Programmatic Environmental Assessment appear adequate to minimize potential negative effects on wildlife. Since many protected species are associated with wetland habitats, we would suggest NRCS planners contact their local KDWPT Area Biologist when developing conservation plans on all wetland practices to determine potential impacts on protected species. We are pleased to see USDA will be conducting follow-up monitoring and evaluation of CRP practices hayed and grazed. There is potential we can learn much from this drought event that will enhance our ability to manage these important habitats for wildlife. If KDWPT can provide assistance in this effort please let us know.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer comment on this process.

Matt Smith
Farm Bill Coordinator
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Office - 785-658-2465 Ext. 204
Cell - 620-450-7207

*****

Please find attached to this email a PDF document with my responses to the Emergency CRP Practices for Haying and Grazing proposed by the Kansas Farm Service Agency on Thursday, August 2, 2012.

If you have any questions or if I can be of further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Darin L. Banks
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7
Watershed Support, Wetland and Stream Protection Section
901 N. 5th Street
Kansas City, Kansas 66101
(913) 551-7224
banks.darin@epa.gov

ATTACHMENT:

Darin L. Banks
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7
Watershed Support, Wetland and Stream Protection Section
Response to Emergency CRP Practices for Haying and Grazing - 2012

Grazing and haying should not be permitted within 120 feet of a farmable wetland boundary. Grazing and haying within buffer areas surrounding farmable wetland boundaries should be permitted after the development of a NRCS Conservation Plan.

To reduce the spread of invasive plant species, any location containing known populations of Federal- or State-listed Noxious Weed and/or Watch List Plant Species should not be permitted for grazing and haying activities. Additional information on the identification and control of Kansas Noxious Weeds can be obtained by contacting the Plant Protection and Weed Control Program of the Kansas Department of Agriculture or the County Weed Director’s Association of Kansas for specific County Weed Director contact information:

Jeff Vogel, Program Manager
Kansas Department of Agriculture
Plant Protection and Weed Control Program
P.O. Box 19282
Forbes Field Building 282, Street I
Topeka, KS 66619-0282
Phone: 785-862-2180
http://www.ksda.gov/plant_protection/

Kenny Baccus, CWDAK President
Ottawa County Weed Department
894 E 10th Street
Minneapolis, KS 67467
Phone: 785-392-3636
http://www.cwdak.org/

*****

As we continue through the prolonged drought, the Service appreciates the opportunity to comment on emergency haying and grazing deployed on CRP practices normally inelligle for these activities. These practices include CP8A, CP23, CP23A, CP27, CP28, CP37, and CP41. We once again, commend your ongoing efforts to provide relief to producers struggling to cope with the effects of this drought. The Service recognizes the vital role CRP is playing in sustaining the agricultural operations of our private landowners, who in turn play a vital role in sustaining our nation’s fish and wildlife resources.

We concur with these considerations provided that the following criteria (as stated by Kansas NRCS) are applied:

  • haying is approved through August 31, 2012, no extension permitted
  • grazing is approved through September 30, 2012, no extension permitted
  • haying and grazing is not permitted within 120 feet of a stream or other permanent water body
  • prior to implementing any form of haying or grazing, a conservation plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) must be developed taking into consideration the existence of protected species.
  • USDA will conduct follow-up monitoring and evaluation of the additional opened CRP areas to study the effects of the drought and USDA's emergency haying and grazing actions.

Once again, we thank you for providing the ability to comment on these actions.

Sincerely,
Michael Disney
Kansas Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
2609 Anderson Ave
Manhattan, KS 66502
Telephone (785) 539-3474 ext. 107
http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/pfw/kansas/

*****

In response to the August 2 memo to the Kansas State Technical Committee–we support the authorization of emergency haying and/or grazing of the 21,854 CRP acres with the 7 CP’s listed in this memo. Our members repeatedly tell us the severity of the current drought is unprecedented. They also tell us that making CRP accessible for forage is the most significant step that USDA and Congress can do to help our producers cope with the droughts impact. While there may be opposition or concerns from the wildlife community, the impact of emergency use of these CRP acres is limited because of the requirements that accompany the release of these acres. For example, we assume that only 50% of the 21,854 acres would be available for haying–which helps assure there will still be considerable wildlife cover on these lands. Again, the Kansas Livestock Association supports emergency haying and grazing of these CRP lands.

Sincerely,
Mike Beam
Senior Vice President
Kansas Livestock Association
6031 SW 37th Street
Topeka, KS 66614
785-273-5115

*****

I realize that we are in the midst of a devastating drought and that present conditions call for out of the box thinking to find solutions. I also realize we are in an election year and politics are intertwined with this proposal. I am not opposed to opening new acres of CRP to grazing but I am also not sure it is the right thing to do. If we graze or hay most of our CRP acres in 2011 & 2012 what is left if we have yet another year of drought? I question the value of the forage if we harvest grass at this late date; optimum harvesting would have occurred in May or June. Grazed or hayed CRP grass will not recover under the best of conditions for a period of 2 years. I am also concerned that we don’t harm the amount of cover our grass provides for HEL soils; we don’t want a repeat of the dust bowl. I believe that allowing haying or grazing of additional CRP acres will do little to accomplish the goal of providing suitable forage for livestock. With that I would have to cast a vote against opening more acres of CRP at the present time.

Howard E. Miller
Public Relations Coordinator
Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc.
18 East 7th Avenue
South Hutchinson, KS 67505
www.cheneylakewatershed.org
New Number 620-669-8161 ext 1338 or 620-727-6546

*****

This is to respond to the e-mail received yesterday from Rosie Collins relative to the potential release of CRP acreages enrolled in the following practices: Wetland Restoration; Wetland Restoration, Non-Floodplain; Farmable Wetlands Pilot Wetland; Farmable Wetlands Pilot Buffer; Grass Waterways, Noneasement.

Although the acreage is only 21,854 acres total, it is apparent that in this drought these acres of wildlife habitat may be the only good quality habitat (or even marginally suitable habitat) for many wildlife species. Much of it is undoubtably critical habitat in both the local sense and possibly in the overal larger landscape. The objections of Audubon of Kansas to haying (and in this case grazing) of lands in these CRP practices are essentially the same as expressed earlier this week relative to the proposal to hay CRP C25 "rare and declining habitat." A copy of that letter is provided below this e-mail.

It seems that events of this year--the widespread drought combined with calls by elected officials and appointed agency directors in an election year--has resulted in a "perfect storm" for wildlife. Almost all available habitat, from state highway roadsides to CRP fields enrolled in considerable measure to provide habitat for wildlife, is being hayed or grazed. Are wildlife considerations being thrown under the bus? It is apparently difficult for many people to understand that many wildlife species are also devastated by drought combined with extended extreme heat. Grassland birds are the suite of bird species that have been in greatest decline in recent decades due to loss of habitat, and decisions resulting in further decline of suitable habitat for brood-rearing, food foraging in the months ahead, winter cover, and with many areas that will be left without sufficient residual cover for nesting habitat nest year. Populations of many of the grassland birds, including upland game birds (including Northern Bobwhites, Pheasants, Lesser and Greater Prairie-chickens), may be diminished for years as an added result of decisions to hay (and in some cases graze) millions of acres of CRP fields in Kansas (and many millions more in other states).

Most people can understand that when the last flows in a river or stream are allocated and removed, or the last pools of water are drawn from a lake, fish (large and small), River Otters, Beavers, and many other water-dependent or aquatic species will perish from that stream or lake--and it will take years for populations to be restored in those waters and habitats. Yet, many people overlook the fact that grassland species are just as dependent for survival and reproduction on suitable grassland habitat--and when it is removed for a year and more and until it is restored and there is sufficient time for recruitment--many of those populations may also decline dramatically. Hay, alternative forage, and cattle can be hauled to alleviate some of the feed problems, but critical habitat cannot be shipped in and the species at-risk cannot be transported to alternative locations.

--Ron Klataske (ron_klataske@audubonofkansas.org)

July 30, 2012

Dear Rod:

Although Audubon of Kansas has concurred with reasonable requests for emergency grazing and restricted haying of appropriate CRP fields prior to this proposal, we strongly object to the release of 725,000 acres enrolled in practice CP-25 in Kansas at this time, or any time during this ongoing drought. Although we share concern that hay supplies may be limited in many areas, and as with last year hay prices are elevated (like other agricultural commodities), the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of acres with haying of CP-25 “rare and declining habitat” CRP plantings could be astronomically costly for wildlife, conservation programs and elements of the economy that dependent on wildlife for as many years as it will take to recover the wildlife populations.

This is one of those occasions when the critical habitat provided by CRP fields with expenditures of hundreds of millions of tax dollars already invested in them in the Great Plains needs to be protected. Under the extended drought conditions that are being experienced over a vast area of the Great Plains, fields enrolled in practice CP-25 may be all there is in terms of survival habitat in significant landscapes for a wide range of wildlife species. This is particularly true for the imperiled Lesser Prairie-chicken of southwestern Kansas and portions of four other states in that area. Although Lesser Prairie-chicken populations in Kansas have reportedly “recovered some” in recent years, it has only occurred in Kansas and the primarily reason is because of habitat created by enrollment in CRP in the southwestern third of Kansas. The declines in other states may have been every more precipitous if it weren’t for CRP in those areas. Because Lesser Prairie-chicken populations, and the survival of this species, are so precarious and have been for a number of years, landowners have received extra environmental index points for establishment of CRP enrollment (especially practice CP-25) in that area of the country. Now is when the birds (and other wildlife) need that habitat most for brood cover, foraging and escape habitat, winter cover in a few months, and critically as potential nesting habitat next spring—or the springs after if this drought continues and there is insufficient regrowth in other CRP fields cut this year or native grasslands grazed short.

It seems counter-productive to release hundreds of thousands of acres of CP-25 for haying when a broad coalition of conservation entities (federal, state and NGOs) have been working hard to build support for the NRCS EQIP Lesser Prairie Chicken initiative, and tens of thousands of additional acres to be enrolled to specifically benefit Lesser Prairie-chickens (and other at-risk species in that area) with State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), CP-38E Lesser Prairie Chicken Habitat Enhancement. SAFE proposals have been an ongoing effort since 2070. The purpose:

  • To restore mixed-grass grasslands to maintain and enhance lesser prairie chicken populations.

Considerable progress has been made, but it pales in comparison to what may be lost if several hundred thousand acres of CRP enrolled in CP-25 are hayed this year in the range of the Lesser Prairie-chicken, especially considering that most other CRP fields have already been released for haying and grazing and at such a low cost for consumption that it makes it highly likely that it will be harvested regardless of hay quality or immediate need. Benefits to many wildlife species will be lost, as there will be few refugia for these species. Added mortality from predation, insufficient food and other factors will reduce survival in the few remaining suitable habitat areas of with concentration.

Because of astronomically high grain prices in recent years due in considerable measure to programs diverting grains from livestock feed and human food to mandated and subsidized production of ethanol and other biofuels, many hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of acres of native grassland (previously used as rangeland or haylands) have been converted to cultivated agriculture. Grain producers benefit from numerous subsidities and programs, however landowners who produce hay for market or retain native rangelands for rental generally do not. To some degree the value of their resources are diminished by CRP give away proposals. The drought will increase hay prices and pasture rent, but shouldn’t the market be allowed to benefit those with hay production and pasture for rent?

Last year thousands of trucks hauled hay from the Dakotas to Texas. Hay that would normally have sold for less that $100 per ton was delivered to Texas cattle producers and feedlots with a value of $300 per ton or more, with the federal government reported paying two thirds of the cost ($200 per ton in many cases). Whether they knew it or not, taxpayers stepped up to the plate to dramatically help producers. Some stockmen hauled herds to Nebraska and elsewhere to graze corn stubble fields while awaiting rains and better soil moisture recovery back home. Risk management and land stewardship require adjustments in livestock numbers in years when available pastureland and hayland is unable to support optimum production, however severe droughts (particularly if they are multi-year) challenge the best of managers and often require herd reductions at less-that-optimal times in terms of price. We trust that many of the low yielding crop fields will not be harvested and will be available for grazing this fall and winter along with fields that are harvested.

It is expensive to haul hay long distances, and heart-wrenching for livestock producers to cut their herds to the carrying capacity of the land and resources they have available, but it is impossible to transport critical habitat needed for wildlife.

Earlier this month, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, along with five members of the Kansas Congressional delegation and others, sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe urging the FWS not to list the Lesser Prairie-Chicken under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). (See the following news report: http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/48128 )

If USDA makes a decision to release 725,000 acres of CP-25 fields for haying in Kansas and more in other states it will become increasing likely that the Lesser Prairie-chicken will become threatened, or even endangered, if the drought persists and habitat conditions do not improve dramatically. Lesser Prairie-chicken nesting and brood-rearing success has already been dramatically diminished by drought conditions—and it is much worst when even that remaining drought-impacted habitat is diminished (possibly cut in half).

The proposed action of releasing additional CRP fields, especially CP-25 fields, for haying is likely to make it imperative that the Fish and Wildlife Service make a finding that the species is threatened or endangered.

In addition to imperiled species, there are other consequences to dramatic reductions in wildlife habitat contained in CRP fields. The State of Kansas and many entities within the state benefit economically from the presence of CRP habitat that supports populations of game species (including Pheasants, Northern Bobwhites, Greater Prairie-chickens, Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer to mention a few). Not only will wildlife populations be diminished, but also fields with suitable cover for hunting opportunities and the sale of resident and nonresident hunting licenses—and the economy that hunters contribute to ranging from motel stays, restaurant meals, sporting equipment sales to outfitting.

Ron

*****

KTC Recommendation: With a majority of responses in favor of emergency haying and grazing of the above listed practices, the KTC is authorizing approval of emergency haying and grazing of CRP practices CP8A-Grass Waterways, CP23-Wetland Restoration, CP23A-Wetland Restoration Non-floodplain, CP27-Farmable Wetlands Pilot Wetland, and CP28-Farmable Wetlands Pilot Buffer.

STC Decision: Concurred with this recommendation.