The USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the USDA continues to support agriculture through many grants and loan programs. Speaking at a telephone news conference on Monday, Aug. 8, Vilsack encouraged producers to take advantage of the many USDA programs.
Wildfires in the Southwest, tornadoes in the Southeast, drought in the southern part of the country and flooding in the Midwest have challenged agriculture.
He announced two changes to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for those suffering from drought.
In Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, grazers may extend their emergency grazing on CRP lands to Oct. 31, 2011.
Livestock producers, who wish to participate in emergency grazing, must request permission from their Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office, indicating the number acres to be grazed.
The FSA will also allow producers, nationwide, to use harvested hay from expiring CRP acres, when those acres are being prepared for fall-seeded crops. This change to allow harvested hay from expiring CRP acres is a permanent policy change.
“This allows livestock producers to feed the hay they mechanically harvest to their own livestock, or sell it, or donate it,” he said. “Rental payments will be reduced by 25 percent for those using this option.”
In 2011, 913 counties in 26 states had been declared disaster areas by early August. This designation makes it possible for farmers in those counties to apply for loans, grants and assistance.
As of Aug. 8, the Risk Management Association had already paid $693 million in crop insurance claims.
Another $114 million was paid out to livestock producers through disaster programs within the 2008 farm bill. Thirty million dollars was made available to producers in the form of emergency loans. Several hundred producers have also received word they may take advantage of the Disaster Debt Set-Aside program that allows them to put off annual loan payments to the Farm Service Agency for one year.
In addition, over $27 million has been provided to producers in 25 states, in the form of conservation resources. This is designated for debris removal.
In the last two years, over $2.6 billion has been paid through Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments programs.
The USDA has also worked through nutrition assistance programs to help 1.1 million people in 466,000 households across 11 states through the disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Over $149 million has been provided through this program.
The USDA Rural Development program is also offering up to 30,000 housing units, to those who lost their homes due to disaster.
“As folks want to learn more about what USDA has been engaged in on the disaster front, I encourage them to look at the www.usda.gov/disaster website,” he said.
He also encourages farmers and ranchers to visit www.disasterassistance.gov for additional programs and assistance.