As serious drought conditions continue to creep across nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials are fanning out to rural communities across the country to show support to farmers and ranchers affected by a string of extreme weather in 2012.
Today, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse begins a tour of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana—three states affected by severe frost and freezes in the spring, with Indiana now experiencing increasing levels of drought.
In the weeks ahead, additional USDA subcabinet leaders will travel to Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and others to augment ongoing assistance from state-level USDA staff. USDA officials will also provide guidance on the department’s existing disaster resources and remind producers to keep thorough records of losses as the department’s authority to operate the five disaster assistance programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2011, and Congress has not yet acted to restore these vital forms of assistance.
“Our hearts go out to all of those affected by this year’s disasters, from frost and freezes to fires and drought,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. “Without a robust package of disaster assistance programs available to struggling farmers and ranchers, it is important that USDA officials visit rural communities and talk with producers not only about their current options but also about the need for proper planning through these difficult times. And we remind Congress that as agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy, it is crucial that producers have a safety net in times of need, and that USDA has the tools to act quickly and deliver assistance when producers need it most.”
USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet. USDA offers a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters. Individuals can also apply for other types of federal disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov.
In rural communities, USDA’s Rural Development works with existing individual and community borrowers that have been affected by a natural disaster to help them with their loans. With respect to loans guaranteed by Rural Development, borrowers should initially contact their lender for assistance.