Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today designated 172 additional counties in 15 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. To date, USDA has designated 1,792 counties as disaster areas—1,670 due to drought.
"USDA is committed to using existing authorities wherever possible to help the farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted by the drought," said Vilsack. "In the past month, we have streamlined the disaster designation process, reduced interest rates on emergency loans, and provided flexibility within our conservation programs to support struggling producers."
Vilsack also announced today the availability of up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is taking applications for Conservation Innovation Grants to help producers build additional resiliency into their production systems. NRCS is offering the grants to partnering entities to evaluate innovative, field-based conservation technologies and approaches. These technologies and/or approaches should lead to improvements such as enhancing the water-holding capacity in soils and installing drought-tolerant grazing systems, which will help farms and ranches become more resilient to drought.
Earlier this week, President Obama and Secretary Vilsack traveled to Iowa to announce USDA's intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, which will help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation's meat supply in line with demand.
For a list of recent government actions to assist with the drought, click here.
Primary Disaster Areas Declared
The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 63 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. Approximately 87 percent of the U.S. corn is within an area experiencing drought, down from a peak of 89 percent on July 24, and 85 percent of the U.S. soybeans are in a drought area, down from a high of 88 percent on July 24. On Aug. 10, USDA reduced the estimate for the 2012 U.S. corn crop to 123.4 bushels per acre, down 23.8 bushels from 2011. However, record corn plantings in 2012 have put the crop in position to be eighth largest in history. In 1988, when U.S. farmers were impacted by another serious drought, total production was 4.9 billion bushels. Today, total production is forecast at 10.8 billion bushels.
The counties declared primary disaster areas today include:
Arkansas: Chicot, Desha, Drew
Colorado (other): Weld
Illinois: Bureau, Cook, De Kalb, Du Page, Grundy, Henry, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, Mercer, Putnam, Stark, Will
Indiana: Adams, Benton, Dearborn, Decatur, Fayette, Franklin, Jennings, Ripley, Starke, Union, Washington, Wayne
Iowa: Adair, Adams, Audubon, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carroll, Cass, Cerro, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Dallas, Floyd, Franklin, Fremont, Gordo, Greene, Guthrie, Hancock, Harrison, Humboldt, Ida, Louisa, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, O'Brien, Osceola, Page, Pocahontas, Pottawattamie Sac, Shelby, Washington, Webster, Wright
Kentucky: Adair, Allen, Anderson, Barren, Bath, Boone, Bourbon, Boyd, Bracken, Bullitt, Campbell, Carroll, Carter, Clark, Clinton, Cumberland, Edmonson, Elliott, Estill, Fayette, Fleming, Floyd, Franklin, Gallatin, Garrard, Grant, Green, Greenup, Harrison, Hart, Jackson, Jefferson, Jessamine, Johnson, Kenton, Laurel, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Marion, Mason, Menifee, Metcalfe, Montgomery, Nelson, Nicholas, Owen, Pendleton, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Robertson, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Scott, Shelby, Simpson, Spencer, Taylor, Trimble, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wolfe, Woodford
Louisiana: Morehouse, Richland, Union, West Carroll
Mississippi: Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha
Nebraska: Cass, Douglas, Fillmore, Lancaster, Otoe, Saline, Sarpy, Seward, Washington
Ohio: Butler, Defiance, Fulton, Hamilton, Henry, Paulding, Preble, Putnam, Van Wert
Oklahoma: Murray, Pontotoc
Wyoming (drought and other): Big Horn, Campbell, Converse, Fremont, Goshen, Johnson, Natrona, Park, Platte, Sheridan, Sublette, Washakie, Weston