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Vilsack announces more help for drought victims

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday made a series of announcements to help farmers, ranchers and businesses impacted by the drought.

Vilsack said he:
  • Intends 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, a move that can help provide much needed forage and feed this fall and winter for livestock producers.
  • Will modify emergency loans so they may be made earlier in the season, helping livestock producers offset increased feed costs and aiding those who have liquidated herds. Previous to this change, emergency loan eligibility was based on crop losses that were determined after the production cycle; loan amounts were based on production during normal years. With these changes, Vilsack said, producers no longer are required to wait until the end of the production cycle to obtain a loan, benefiting livestock producers who need assistance today to help offset increased feed costs, as well as producers liquidating herds as a result of the drought.
  • Designated 33 additional counties in eight states as natural disaster areas — 23 counties due to drought. In the past six weeks, USDA has designated 1,821 counties in 35 states as disaster areas—1,692 due to drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 63 percent of the nation’s hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 71 percent of the nation’s cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought, USDA said in the news release.

Approximately 85 percent of the U.S. corn is within an area experiencing drought, down from a peak of 89 percent on July 24, and 83 percent of the U.S. soybeans are in a drought area, down from a high of 88 percent on July 24.

On August 10, USDA estimated the 2012 U.S. corn crop to be the eighth largest in history, at roughly 10.8 billion bushels. In 1988, when U.S. farmers were impacted by another serious drought, total production was 4.9 billion bushels.

During the week ending August 19, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that 51 percent of U.S. corn and 37 percent of the soybeans were rated in very poor to poor condition, while rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor remained at 59 percent for the third consecutive week.

The latest information on the drought may be found at www.usda.gov/drought.