Small drought assistance and more disaster counties

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced two new pieces of disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers impacted by the nation's worsening drought.

First, Vilsack is expanding emergency haying and grazing on approximately 3.8 million acres of conservation land to bring greater relief to livestock producers dealing with shortages of hay and pastureland. Second, the Secretary announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012. As a result, farming families now have an extra 30 days to make payments without incurring interest penalties on unpaid premiums.

Earlier Wednesday, Vilsack signed disaster designations for an additional 218 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, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming. More than half (50.3 percent) of all counties in the United States have been designated disaster areas by USDA in 2012, mainly due to drought.

"President Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time," said Vilsack. "The assistance announced today will help U.S. livestock producers dealing with climbing feed prices, critical shortages of hay and deteriorating pasturelands. Responding to my request, crop insurance companies indicated that producers can forgo interest penalties to help our nation's farm families struggling with cash flow challenges. The Obama Administration intends to continue helping those who farm or ranch and live and work in rural America through this period of hardship."

Emergency Haying and Grazing

In response to the expanding drought, Secretary Vilsack today announced that livestock producers and other participants in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will now be able to hay and graze acres that have been ineligible in the past. Many of these additional acres have wetland-related characteristics and are likely to contain better quality hay and forage than on other CRP acres. There are approximately 3.8 million acres that will now be eligible for emergency haying and grazing, subject to certain conditions. Haying and grazing may only occur under strict compliance rules to help minimize impacts on these sensitive specialty practices. In addition, USDA will conduct follow-up monitoring and evaluation of these opened CRP areas to study the effects of the drought and USDA's emergency haying and grazing actions. Producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency offices for additional information.

Federal Crop Insurance

Secretary Vilsack announced today that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012. To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, Secretary Vilsack sent a letter to crop insurance companies asking them to voluntarily defer the accrual of any interest on unpaid spring crop premiums by producers until November 1, 2012. In turn, to assist the crop insurance companies, USDA will not require crop insurance companies to pay uncollected producer premiums until one month later.

During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,584 unduplicated counties across 32 states as disaster areas—1,452 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 July 29, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that U.S. soybeans rated 37 percent very poor to poor, matching the lowest conditions observed during the drought of 1988. NASS also reported that 48 percent of the U.S. corn crop was rated very poor to poor, while 57 percent of the nation's pastures and rangeland are rated very poor or poor condition.

Last week, President Obama met with Secretary Vilsack and members of his Cabinet to discuss additional steps the Administration could take to help farmers, ranchers and business owners manage and recover from the current drought. Later in the week, President Obama directed Secretary Vilsack to convene a meeting of the White House Rural Council to update members and stakeholders on the Administration response to the drought. Vilsack will update Rural Council members and stakeholders again next week on new steps taken by the Administration to combat the drought.

Under Secretary Vilsack's leadership, USDA has announced a variety of steps to get assistance to producers impacted by the worsening drought, including:

  • Allowing additional acres under CRP to be used for emergency haying or grazing. The action allows lands that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing.
  • Allowing producers to modify current Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions.
  • Authorizing haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. USDA has expedited its authorization process for this haying and grazing.
  • Encouraging crop insurance companies to provide a short grace period for farmers on unpaid insurance premiums, as some farming families can be expected to struggle to make ends meet at the close of the crop year.
  • Reducing the emergency loan interest rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.
  • Lowering the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012.
  • Simplifying the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.

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. The U.S. Small Business Administration has also made 63 agency declarations in 33 states covering 1,675 counties, providing a pathway for those affected to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). SBA's EIDLs are available to small, non-farm businesses and small agricultural cooperatives that are economically affected by the drought in their community.

Also today, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will convene a call with states to listen and discuss the ways in which U.S. DOT can work with Governors and State Departments of Transportation to help communities impacted by the drought. Secretary LaHood will be joined by both Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and Greg Nadeau, Deputy Administrator for the Federal Highways Administration.

The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. USDA's crop insurance program currently insures 264 million acres, 1.14 million policies, and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms. In response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. In the past 3 years, USDA provided 103,000 loans to family farmers totaling $14.6 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Primary counties and corresponding states designated as disaster areas today:

Arkansas
Benton
Washington

Georgia
Bartow
Cherokee
Cobb
Haralson
Paulding
Polk

Illinois
Adams
Bond
Boone
Brown
Calhoun
Carroll
Cass
Champaign
Christian
Clark
Clay
Clinton
Coles
Cumberland
De Witt
Douglas
Edgar
Effingham
Fayette
Ford
Fulton
Greene
Hancock
Henderson
Iroquois
Jasper
Jefferson
Jersey
Jo Daviess
La Salle
Lee
Livingston
Logan
Macon
Macoupin
Madison
Marion
Marshall
Mason
McDonough
McLean
Menard
Monroe
Montgomery
Morgan
Moultrie
Ogle
Peoria
Perry
Piatt
Randolph
Rock Island
Sangamon
Schuyler
Scott
Shelby
St. Clair
Stephenson
Tazewell
Vermilion
Warren
Washington
Wayne
Whiteside
Winnebago
Woodford

Indiana
Jackson
Warren

Iowa
Appanoose
Benton
Black Hawk
Boone
Bremer
Buchanan
Butler
Cedar
Clayton
Clinton
Davis
Delaware
Des Moines
Dubuque
Fayette
Grundy
Hamilton
Hardin
Henry
Iowa
Jackson
Jasper
Jefferson
Johnson
Jones
Keokuk
Lee
Linn
Lucas
Mahaska
Marion
Marshall
Monroe
Muscatine
Polk
Poweshiek
Scott
Story
Tama
Van Buren
Wapello
Wayne

Kansas
Atchison
Brown
Doniphan
Jackson

Mississippi
Marshall

Nebraska
Antelope
Arthur
Banner
Blaine
Brown
Buffalo
Box
Butte
Cedar
Chase
Cherry
Cheyenne
Dawes
Dawson
Deuel
Dixon
Franklin
Garden
Garfield
Gosper
Grant
Hall
Harlan
Holt
Hooker
Kearney
Keith
Keya Paha
Kimball
Knox
Lincoln
Logan
Loup
Madison
McPherson
Morrill
Perkins
Phelps
Pierce
Platte
Rock
Scotts Bluff
Sheridan
Sioux
Stanton
Thomas
Wayne
Wheeler

Oklahoma
Adair
Cherokee
Delaware
Haskell
Mayes
McIntosh
Muskogee
Okmulgee
Rogers
Sequoyah
Tulsa
Wagoner

South Dakota
Bennett
Bon Homme
Butte
Charles Mix
Clay
Custer
Davison
Douglas
Fall River
Gregory
Haakon
Hanson
Hutchinson
Jackson
Lawrence
Lincoln
McCook
Meade
Pennington
Shannon
Todd
Tripp
Turner
Union
Yankton

Tennessee
Fayette
Haywood
Lauderdale

Wyoming
Albany
Campbell
Converse
Crook
Goshen
Niobrara
Platte
Weston





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August, 01, 2012 at 08:18 PM

When is Secretary Vilsack going to help for all the strugling Dairy-Farmers in America????. Why don't they get federal assistance????? Dairy Farmers are Broke or going to be Broke soon.

Linda White    
Wisconsin  |  August, 02, 2012 at 07:03 AM

And the future "help" is going to be worse than today. The new dairy policy as passed is based on margin above feed cost. Because feed is so high it would have required those enrolled to cut production in May and be cutting production now. So let me see... I an already challenged to pay feed costs and now I am going to cut production and get partial payments on that all while hoping my neighbors will cut production too. How do I cut production? Sell a cow? However many months from now when the reduction is lifted I am supposed to just have one appear to replace her? Dairies are not ethanol plants that can be shuttered and then quickly be brough back to full production. Because this program isn't size neutral and penalizes larger producers by charging them more, the large dairies will likely continue to protect their margins in other ways. I know this because we produce over 20 million pounds of milk on our family farm and would be fools to join the program. So while those in are cutting, the best economic plan for us might be increasing production...with over 50% of the milk being produced by 5% of the farmers do you think this has any chance of working????I feel for those who enroll. You will be put in a place of no recovery.


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