Northern Ag Network
posted on July 26, 2012 06:00 :: 532 Views
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has designated 76 additional counties in six states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat.
That brings the total of official disaster-designated counties nationally to 1,369 across 31 states. Of those, 1,234 counties are considered disaster areas because of drought. USDA has added more than 300 counties to the disaster list in the past two weeks.
Such a designation allows all qualified farmers and livestock producers in the areas to be eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The additional counties designated today are in the states of Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The U.S. Drought Monitor currently reports that two-thirds of the continental United States is in a moderate to exceptional drought. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/…
During the week ending July 22, the portion of the U.S. corn crop rated in very poor to poor condition climbed to 45%, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. Soybeans rated very poor to poor rose to 35%. Such ratings for both commodities have increased for seven consecutive weeks. During the same period, from June 3 to July 22, the portion of the U.S. corn rated good to excellent fell from 72% to 26%. Soybeans rated good to excellent tumbled from 65% to 31%. The current corn and soybean ratings represent the lowest conditions at any time of year since 1988. At the same time, 55% of the nation's pastures and rangeland are rated in very poor or poor condition.
On Monday, USDA announced that it will allow additional acres under the Conservation Reserve Program to be used for emergency haying or grazing. The action will allow lands that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing. In addition, USDA is allowing producers to modify current Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions, and has authorized haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. USDA has expedited its authorization process for this haying and grazing.
Vilsack also announced plans to encourage crop insurance companies to provide a short grace period for farmers on unpaid insurance premiums, as some farming families can be expected to struggle to make ends meet at the close of the crop year.
Also today, USDA released an infographic that helps to illustrate how growth and diversity in the U.S. agriculture sector since the 1988 drought has better positioned American agriculture to endure the current natural disaster. For this and other updates about USDA's efforts to respond to the drought, please visit www.usda.gov/drought.
Posted by Russell Nemetz