Two measures announced today by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack are meant to bring relief to farmers and ranchers nationwide as drought conditions have now caused more than half of all counties to be declared disaster areas.
After adding 218 counties in 12 states to the list of designated disaster areas, Vilsack announced two new ways that farmers and ranchers could seek relief. The first is a 3.8 million-acre expansion of emergency haying and grazing areas on conservation land. The second is a 30-day grace period that crop insurance companies have agreed to to extend to farmers on their premiums.
“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,” Vilsack said in a statement.
About 66 percent of the nation’s hay acreage and 73 percent of the nation’s cattle acreage is experiencing drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The 3.8 million acres of conservation land made available for emergency haying and grazing must be used in accordance with rules that will minimize any impact to these areas, the USDA said. The agency said it will conduct follow-up monitoring and evaluation.
The counties designated today are in the following states: Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming.