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Federal lawmakers seek disaster declaration for Minnesota farmers

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan today called on the Department of Agriculture to swiftly issue a disaster declaration for Minnesota farmers hurt by the shortage of animal feed.

After the Agriculture Department issued a disaster declaration for 48 Wisconsin counties and five contiguous counties in Minnesota, the members urged the Secretary of Agriculture to take immediate action to provide Minnesota farmers with the same relief. Last year's drought , along with this year's late spring and heavy rains have led to exceptional losses to the alfalfa crop that Minnesota dairy and cattle producers rely on as a high-protein animal feed. The disaster declaration would make producers eligible for emergency loan assistance to help address crop losses and high feed costs.

"The severe damage to the alfalfa crop coupled with excessive rain and flooding in many areas of Minnesota has resulted in economic hardship for dairy and cattle produces," the members said in the letter. "That is why it is especially critical that you take immediate action on the disaster declaration request and other emergency authorities at your discretion to provide assistance for our producers."

Last month, the members sent a letter to the Department urging them to grant an emergency exemption to the November 1st restriction that would allow farmers to harvest a second crop or graze livestock on forages on prevent plant acres without penalty. In addition, the members requested emergency authorizations to allow for additional livestock grazing on Conservation Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program acres and assistance for producers to plant high forage value cover crops.