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Drought Impact is Widespread

No rain in sight: This July 16 map, from USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey, shows little relief from the drought conditions blanketing the country.

Weekend thundershowers provided limited and localized relief to a few Midwestern fields, but most of the Corn Belt remains in dire need of moisture, reports USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. In fact, 30 percent of the U.S. corn crop was rated in very poor to poor condition early last week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Not since 1988, when half of the U.S. corn crop was rated very poor to poor, have corn conditions been lower in July. The last time at least 30 percent of the U.S. corn was rated very poor to poor was September 2002.

Midwestern crop conditions continue to decline under a hot, mostly dry weather regime, and the outlook for July 22-28 calls for a hotter and drier-than-normal weather pattern to persist nearly nationwide.

In response to the situation, USDA declared that more than 1,000 counties in 26 states are natural-disaster areas, the biggest such declaration ever. The designation makes farmers and ranchers in affected counties – about a third of those in the entire country – eligible for low-interest loans to help manage the drought, wildfires or other disasters.

A package of disaster assistance program improvements will deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced three significant improvements to decades-old USDA programs and processes related to Secretarial disaster designations:

  • A final rule that simplifies the process for Secretarial disaster designations and will result in a 40 percent reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters
  • A reduced interest rate for emergency loans that effectively lowers the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent
  • A payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent

This USDA news release provides additional details on the disaster assistance program changes.

“It is increasingly important that USDA has the tools to act quickly and deliver assistance to farmers and ranchers when they need it most,” says Vilsack. “By amending the Secretarial disaster designation, we’re creating a more efficient and effective process. And by delivering lower interest rates on emergency loans and providing greater flexibility for haying and grazing on CRP lands, we’re keeping more farmers in business and supporting our rural American communities through difficult times.”

Contact your crop insurance company and local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Center to report your damages to crops or your livestock loss. Livestock producers need to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as food purchased due to lost supplies. More information about federal crop insurance may be found at rma.usda.gov, and additional resources to help farmers and ranchers deal with flooding may be found at usda.gov/disaster.

How is drought affecting you and your operation? We want to know.

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