USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $11.8 million in additional financial and technical assistance to help crop and livestock producers in 22 states apply conservation practices that reduce the impacts of drought and improve soil health and productivity. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides this assistance through its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Since early summer, USDA has announced a variety of assistance to producers impacted by the drought, including opening conservation acres to emergency haying and grazing, lowering the interest rate for emergency loans, and working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers. Just a few weeks ago, USDA announced $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse impacts of the historic drought. In July, the Secretary announced USDA would allow producers to modify current EQIP contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions, and also authorized haying and grazing of WRP easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. Today’s announcement expands upon these efforts and brings the total assistance to nearly $28 million.
The additional funding will allow NRCS to address the backlog in applications from the previous drought assistance signup, as well as accept new applications from producers interested in applying selected conservation practices to address drought, including prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities and water conservation practices. Producers can also apply for financial assistance to re-install conservation practices that failed due to drought.
Since July, USDA has announced:
- Intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, to help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation's meat supply in line with demand.
- Allowed emergency loans to be made earlier in the season.
- Intent to file special provisions with the federal crop insurance program to allow haying or grazing of cover crops without impacting the insurability of planted 2013 spring crops.
- Authorized up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought.
- Granted a temporary variance from the National Organic Program’s pasture practice standards for organic ruminant livestock producers in 16 states in 2012.
- Authorized $16 million in existing funds from its WHIP and EQIP to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought.
- Initiated transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought.
- Authorized haying and grazing of WRP easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands.
- Lowered 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.
- Simplified the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.