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Obama announces drought-relief, calls for farm bill passage

President Barack Obama late today announced several drought-relief steps and called on Congress to pass the five-year farm bill as quickly as possible.

Obama met with the Cabinet-level White House Rural Council in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack seated to his right and Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills on his left.

While a pool of White House reporters was present, Obama called the drought “historic” and “devastating” and announced a series of measures including $30 million in USDA funding to get more water to livestock, Transportation Department assistance to get more trucks with supplies on the roads for ranchers and farmers, and Small Business Administration low-interest loans.

“This has been an all-hands-on-deck response,” Obama said. “But obviously we have a lot more to do. My instructions to all agencies is to do all that we can do.”

Obama also said that passing the farm bill as soon as possible is “the single best way to help rural communities both in the short term and in the long term.” He said he has seen “good bipartisan work” on the legislation so far, and urged lawmakers to do more.