USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today designated 39 additional counties in eight states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,297 counties across 29 states as disaster areas, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The additional counties designated today are in the states of Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming. The U.S. Drought Monitor currently reports that 61% of the continental United States is in a moderate to exceptional drought.
Earlier in the week, USDA also designated the entire state of Missouri a disaster area due to drought in response to a request from the state’s governor.
The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to designate disaster counties to make disaster assistance programs available to farmers and ranchers. During times of need, USDA has historically responded to disasters across the country by providing direct support, disaster assistance, technical assistance, and access to credit. USDA’s low-interest emergency loans have helped producers recover from losses due to drought, flooding and other natural disasters for decades. By reducing the interest rates to 2.25 percent, emergency loans immediately come into line with other rates in the marketplace and provide a much-needed resource for producers hoping to recover from production and physical losses associated with natural disasters.