USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today 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.
Link to full release from USDA.
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.
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% 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% very poor to poor, matching the lowest conditions observed during the drought of 1988. NASS also reported that 48% of the U.S. corn crop was rated very poor to poor, while 57% of the nation's pastures and rangeland are rated very poor or poor condition.