In Key Hearing, Luján Confirms USDA Will Provide Support for Farmers and Ranchers Affected by Wildfires
Luján Reaffirms USDA’s Commitment to New Mexicans Impacted by Historic Wildfires
Washington, D.C. – In a hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee last week, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) confirmed with Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that New Mexico farmers and ranchers affected by recent and ongoing wildfires will receive the USDA’s full support — including access to U.S. Forest Service grazing lands for cattle and livestock.
WATCH: Luján Questions USDA Secretary Vilsack
“New Mexico is currently facing the largest fire in our state’s history having now burned over 311,000 acres and directly impacting farmers, ranchers, families, and rural communities across the state,” said Luján. “I want to thank you and the United States Forest Service for the decision this week to pause all prescribed burns for 90 days while the Department reviews the process and also for the exemption that allows ranchers to be able to access U.S. Forest [Service] lands where they have grazing permits…”
“Accessing grazing still remains a top concern for a lot of families in these communities, Secretary Vilsack, and so what I am hoping is that I can have your commitment that you and the Department will do all in your power to ensure that ranchers in New Mexico have access to all available grazing and feed options, including allowing emergency haying and grazing of CRP lands,” Luján continued.
Secretary Vilsack responded, “We’ll be happy to work with you to make sure that we are responsive to the needs of your producers. It’s a commitment that I make to you, and a commitment that I made to your Governor…”
During the hearing, Senator Luján urged Secretary Vilsack to provide the full support of the Department to ensuring impacted New Mexicans are able to receive the resources they need. Impacted farmers and ranchers are urged to document all damages and expenses and contact their local USDA office to begin the application process. According to the USDA, Persons with a written and approved entry permit or authorization letter, i.e., Grazing Permittees, are exempt from U.S. Forest Service Closures. Additional exemptions can be found here.
A full list of programs available can be found here: https://www.farmers.gov/protection-recovery