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Secretary’s Column: The Means to Help Producers Impacted by Drought

This week, we continued to see historic levels of drought grip much of our nation, impacting thousands of farm families. Although the hard work and innovation of our producers has fueled a strong farm economy in recent years, President Obama and I understand the major challenges this drought poses for American agriculture.

As of July 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 1,055 counties across the country as disaster areas due to drought. Significant portions of many crops are impacted – for example, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, 88 percent of our nation’s corn and 87 percent of our soybeans are in drought-stricken areas. Rising grain prices are threatening livestock and dairy operators with high input costs.

Our farmers and ranchers are no strangers to uncertainty – but it’s even harder to plan for the future when we don’t know how much more severe the drought will be.

Over the years, American producers have constantly innovated to meet new demands and adapt to new conditions, embracing new methods and utilizing new technology. The same innovative spirit that has positioned American agriculture as a global leader has helped to reduce the impact of the drought.

Nevertheless, the uncertainty of drought means this is a very difficult time for many. At President Obama’s direction, USDA is doing all it can within the Department’s existing authority to help.

Last week, I announced a final rule to simplify the process for Secretarial disaster designations – both to speed the process for producers and to reduce the burden on State government officials, who are also hard at work to help producers around the country cope with this disaster.

I reduced the interest rate for Farm Service Agency Emergency Loans, effectively lowering the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent to help ensure that credit is available for farm families who are hit by drought.

And finally, I announced that USDA has lowered payment reductions for Conservation Reserve Program lands that qualify for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent.

USDA officials are traveling to states around the country to see firsthand the impact of the drought, and we will continue to look for ways to help. But the fact is USDA’ s legal authority to provide assistance remains limited right now. That’s because the 2008 Farm Bill disaster programs, which were implemented under President Obama, expired last year. Prior to the expiration, these programs helped hundreds of thousands of U.S. producers during disasters.

If Congress doesn’t act, USDA will remain limited in our means to help drought-stricken producers. That’s why President Obama and I continue to call on Congress to take steps to ensure that USDA has the tools it needs to help farm families during the drought. Disaster assistance for producers is also one of many reasons why we need swift action by Congress to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill this year.

I know that many producers are struggling today with the impact of this historic drought. The President and I are committed to doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers in this difficult time.

As all of us across America hope for rainfall, and while USDA does all it can to assist America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities, I hope that Congress will do all it can to help us get the job done.

Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance. For an audio version of this week’s column, please click here.

 

6 Responses to “Secretary’s Column: The Means to Help Producers Impacted by Drought”

  1. Lynette Beiser says:

    In Butler County, Ohio, my family will lose at least 75% of our crop due to drought, yet it is still not designated as disaster county. We are one of the largest farmers here in Southwest Ohio, farming close to 4000 acres. We cannot get banks to loan us money as they discount our real estate and assets by 60%. We are a 7 generation farm and we are going down. HELP!

  2. risa m. mandell says:

    Dear Secretary Vilsack:

    I listened to your interview with Jeremy Hobson on July 19th and heard you use the chilling term, “liquidating herds.” I realize this is how the industry refers to those en route to slaughter. I’m not asking for politically correct language; I’m asking for compassionate examination, reflection and dialogue of how we regard living, sentient beings, each one an individual with dignity, uniqueness and incalculable value and a kinship system. Animals exist in their own right. They are not widgets or commodities to be used just because we can. The violence in our society begins with the denial of how we treat these vulnerable others.

    I look forward to your response.

    Thank you.

  3. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    @Lynette – We understand that this is a very difficult time for your family, and so many other families dealing with this challenging disaster. USDA is assessing this situation on a daily basis and examining every possible way to get immediate and longer-term assistance to producers within our existing authorities. We’ll work with our Ohio FSA office to reach out to you. Our thoughts are with you. –Matt Herrick, USDA Communications

  4. Gary Bonney says:

    As an Agricultural Dealer in Southern Iowa, we have seen first hand the effects of this drought to our farming communities that we serve, and in some cases, the effects are devastating. For the first time in many years, some of our hardest hit Crop and Livestock Farmers are resorting to chopping their crops of corn to be used for livestock feed because there is not enough corn there to warrant combining it. Many of the livestock farmers are selling off their herds due to parched grazing land, the high cost of feeding and the lack of water within holding ponds, where the ground has deep fissures in it where water once stood. I applaud your efforts to assist our nations Greatest Resource, the Family Farm that in many cases span past the century mark, in providing them the necessary means of survival and maintaining a heritage rich culture that is at the Heart of this Glorious Nations History.
    The need for the cessation of partisan politics is far beyond the point of “it would be nice if the parties in Congress would cooperate to bring stability to this Great Nation’s Economy” and has become a necessity. This is paramount to not only the survival of this drought, more importantly to the continuation of providing the necessary food for this country and the world, which is one of the reasons for the designation of “America’s Heartland”. I applaud your efforts and stand with your Administration to continue to fight for the farmers of this nation.
    Thank you!

  5. Lynette Beiser says:

    Matt,

    Things are not getting better here in Butler County, Ohio. Our corn crops are now falling with no corn on them. We won’t be able to chop some of the fields now. I don’t understand why Ohio is not declared disaster yet. The less than 1% (farmers) are decreasing by the minute. Thanks for replying and please do what you can to get Butler County declared disaster.

  6. Melissa says:

    Dear Secretary Vilsack,

    I don’t see how Congress can ignore the devistation that is taking place across the United States and not act on it. We take in over a billion pounds of popcorn a year and our crops across 5 states have been hit hard. I can’t imagine the impact it will have on our farmers that we contract out to. As Lynette said things are not getting better, just because we have received some rain in the last month it is to late for the crops. What will the members of congress think when they can’t get their favorite cereal, chips, softdrinks, steaks etc. in the near future because they have helped to bankrupt our countries farmers.

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