Vilsack also announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012. To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, Vilsack sent a letter to crop insurance companies asking them to voluntarily defer the accrual of any interest on unpaid spring crop premiums by producers until Nov. 1, 2012. In turn, to assist the crop insurance companies, USDA will not require crop insurance companies to pay uncollected producer premiums until one month later.

During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,584 unduplicated counties across 32 states as disaster areas – 1,452 due to drought – making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 66 percent of the nation's hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 73 percent of the nation's cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought. During the week ending July 29, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that U.S. soybeans rated 37% very poor to poor, matching the lowest conditions observed during the drought of 1988. NASS also reported that 48% of the U.S. corn crop was rated very poor to poor, while 57% of the nation's pastures and rangeland are rated very poor or poor condition.

Last week, President Obama met with Secretary Vilsack and members of his Cabinet to discuss additional steps the Administration could take to help farmers, ranchers and business owners manage and recover from the current drought. Later in the week, President Obama directed Secretary Vilsack to convene a meeting of the White House Rural Council to update members and stakeholders on the Administration response to the drought. Vilsack will update Rural Council members and stakeholders again next week on new steps taken by the Administration to combat the drought.