Vilsack Announces New Drought Assistance, Designates 218 Additional Counties as Disaster AreasWed, 01 Aug 2012 12:54:27 CDT
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.
Vilsack also 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
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
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.
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