WASHINGTON – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer on Tuesday announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has authorized acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to be available for hay and forage.

The USDA said in a statement the lands would become available after the nesting season.

"This action will provide much needed feed and forage while maintaining the conservation benefits from the nation's premier conservation program," said Schafer. "Eligible farmers and ranchers will be able to plan for harvest of forage after the end of the primary nesting season this summer." The agency made the move in the face of increasing costs for feed and commodities.

Some cattlemen appreciated the action, but said that the move was misguided.

“Livestock producers cannot use this land for any haying or grazing until the primary nesting season ends, and then they have to be finished with any forage use by November 10,” said Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of legislative affairs. “In most cases that’s a very limited window of opportunity, and it does not provide the kind of significant relief this industry needs. It’s a nice gesture by USDA, but unfortunately it doesn’t amount to much more than that.”