RIM easement owners may request permission to hay and graze conservation lands

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For release: Aug. 2, 2013       Contact: Jennifer Maleitzke, 651-315-5082 (cell)

RIM easement owners may request permission to hay and graze conservation lands
St. Paul, Minn.—Since some Minnesota livestock producers have experienced difficulty due to widespread winter kill of alfalfa and persistent wet conditions, the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is reminding landowners they have options within their Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) contracts to address these issues.

Per BWSR policy, landowners may request permission to hay or graze easement lands for conservation management purposes, provided those activities are documented in a management plan signed by the easement holder, the local soil and water conservation district and BWSR.

“According to state statute, we are not able to issue a blanket authorization to hay and graze conservation lands due to winter kill or persistent wet conditions,” Sarah Strommen, BWSR Assistant Director, said. “However, we want to be responsive to landowners’ needs and we believe management plans allow for some flexibility to address the weather conditions we’ve experienced in 2013 while achieving conservation goals.”

The Board passed a resolution at its June meeting to inform and educate easement holders and local SWCD staff on provisions for vegetative management, following a request by Gov. Mark Dayton that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide assistance to Minnesota livestock producers.

Since then, the USDA has declared 19 counties in Minnesota open to emergency haying and grazing. Emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) may only be conducted on specific eligible conservation practices, and is limited to 50 percent of the field for haying or 75 percent of the field for grazing. To initiate emergency haying and grazing, producers must contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to apply before any haying or grazing begins.

“The federal declaration does not include state conservation lands,” Strommen said. “However, RIM easements are subordinate to federal CRP easements. As long as those contracts are in effect, landowners should contact NRCS for emergency management options.”

For state information, interested landowners should contact local soil and water conservation district office for specific policies and information.