Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced two new pieces of disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers impacted by the nation's worsening drought. First, Vilsack is expanding emergency haying and grazing on approximately 3.8 million acres of conservation land to bring greater relief to livestock producers dealing with shortages of hay and pastureland. Second, the secretary announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012. As a result, farming families now have an extra 30 days to make payments without incurring interest penalties on unpaid premiums.

Vilsack also signed disaster designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. Counties designated on Aug. 1 are in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming. More than half (50.3%) of all counties in the United States have been designated disaster areas by USDA in 2012, mainly due to drought.

"President Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time," says Vilsack. "The assistance announced today (Aug. 1) will help U.S. livestock producers dealing with climbing feed prices, critical shortages of hay and deteriorating pasturelands. Responding to my request, crop insurance companies indicated that producers can forgo interest penalties to help our nation's farm families struggling with cash flow challenges. The Obama Administration intends to continue helping those who farm or ranch and live and work in rural America through this period of hardship."

 

Emergency Haying and Grazing

In response to the expanding drought, Secretary Vilsack announced that livestock producers and other participants in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will now be able to hay and graze acres that have been ineligible in the past. Many of these additional acres have wetland-related characteristics and are likely to contain better-quality hay and forage than on other CRP acres. There are approximately 3.8 million acres that will now be eligible for emergency haying and grazing, subject to certain conditions. Haying and grazing may only occur under strict compliance rules to help minimize impacts on these sensitive specialty practices. In addition, USDA will conduct follow-up monitoring and evaluation of these opened CRP areas to study the effects of the drought and USDA's emergency haying and grazing actions. Producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency offices for additional information.