With the USDA announcement highlighted today, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will use $16 million in existing funds from its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought. The states with exceptional, or the most severe, drought are Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and Nebraska. States experiencing extreme drought are Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. NRCS state conservationists will announce special signups for WHIP and EQIP funds which will allow eligible producers to apply for selected conservation practices. These practices include prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities and water conservation practices. Eligible producers also can re-apply for financial assistance to re-install or re-apply failed conservation practices due to drought and modify existing contracts to re-schedule planned conservation practices.
In addition, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will transfer $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). ECP provides emergency funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought. ECP also provides resources to help producers restore livestock fences.
Also today, Vilsack signed disaster designations for an additional 44 counties in 12 states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. Counties designated today are in the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,628 unduplicated counties across 33 states as disaster areas—1,496 due to drought—making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 66 percent of the nation's hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 73 percent of the nation's cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought. During the week ending Aug. 5, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that U.S. soybeans rated 39 percent very poor to poor, surpassing the lowest conditions observed during the drought of 1988. NASS also reported that 50 percent of the U.S. corn crop was rated very poor to poor. In addition, 59 percent of the nation's pastures and rangeland are rated very poor or poor.