Drought assistance 'all-hands-on-deck effort'
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[August 31, 2012]
SPRINGFIELD -- Scherrie V.
Giamanco, state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency
in Illinois, says that as the drought continues to affect most of
the country, thoughts and prayers are with the thousands of farm
families who have been affected by this disaster.
President Obama has called the U.S. government's approach to
drought assistance an "all-hands-on-deck effort" and has
directed USDA and other federal agencies to find additional ways
to help those affected by drought. To date, USDA has taken a
wide variety of administrative actions that Giamanco wants to be
sure Illinois farmers and ranchers know about.
First and foremost, USDA streamlined the disaster designation
process that has allowed the agency to quickly, efficiently
authorize emergency aid for producers, including Illinois, where
102 counties have been declared primary disaster areas for
Earlier this summer, USDA lowered the interest rate for Farm
Service Agency emergency loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent
and authorized emergency haying and grazing on additional lands
enrolled in certain USDA conservation programs. The payment
reduction for emergency haying and grazing of CRP land was also
reduced from 25 percent to 10 percent.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack personally
encouraged crop insurance companies to provide a short grace
period for farmers on unpaid insurance premiums -- and all of
the major crop insurance companies have agreed to do so.
In August, it was announced that the Natural Resources
Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency are providing an
additional $30 million nationwide to help producers move
emergency water supplies and repair damaged lands.
President Obama and Vilsack traveled to Iowa to survey
drought-stricken cropland and to announce that USDA intends to
purchase up to $170 million in meat, poultry and farm-raised
fish to help deliver additional relief for livestock producers.
Recently, changes were made to the crop insurance program to
allow producers to plant cover crops this fall that can provide
much needed forage to livestock.
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The president has convened ongoing meetings of the White House Rural
Council to ensure that all federal agencies are doing everything
they can to help. For example, the Small Business Administration has
worked to increase emergency lending for small businesses, farmers
and ranchers, and the Department of Transportation is waiving
certain requirements on commercial trucks, to get more drivers on
the road in the relief effort.
According to Giamanco, the biggest challenge the president
currently faces in carrying out the relief effort is the fact that
the 2008 Farm Bill disaster assistance programs expired at the end
of last year. These programs were implemented under Obama and prior
to their expiration delivered more than 400,000 disaster assistance
payments totaling more than $4 billion to U.S. farmers and ranchers.
Giamanco says that USDA's preference remains that drought
assistance be enacted as part of a comprehensive, multiyear food,
farm and jobs bill, to ensure that the USDA has tools to keep
growing the rural economy, give more certainty to American farmers
and ranchers, and provide help to producers in need.
Giamanco encourages any farmer or rancher with questions to
contact their FSA office, because even with limited legal authority,
USDA has worked hard to offer tools to help. For the latest
information, farmers and ranchers can also visit USDA's drought
"As the drought continues, President Obama, Secretary Vilsack and
all of us at USDA won't stop looking for ways to help farmers and
ranchers in this difficult time," Giamanco said.
[Text from file received from
Illinois Farm Service Agency]