Under Vilsack's leadership, USDA has announced a variety of steps to get assistance to producers impacted by the worsening drought, including:
- Allowing additional acres under CRP to be used for emergency haying or grazing. The action allows lands that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing.
- 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.
- Authorizing 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.
- Encouraging 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.
- Reducing the emergency loan interest rate from 3.75% to 2.25%.
- Lowering the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25% to 10% in 2012.
- Simplifying the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40%.
USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet. The U.S. Small Business Administration has also made 63 agency declarations in 33 states covering 1,675 counties, providing a pathway for those affected to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). SBA's EIDLs are available to small, non-farm businesses and small agricultural cooperatives that are economically affected by the drought in their community.