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Published August 23, 2012, 04:16 PM

New help for livestock producers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made a series of announcements Aug. 22 that continue to underscore the Obama Administration’s ongoing work to help farmers, ranchers and businesses impacted by the most severe drought in 50 years.

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made a series of announcements Aug. 22 that continue to underscore the Obama Administration’s ongoing work to help farmers, ranchers and businesses impacted by the most severe drought in 50 years.

Vilsack said the U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to file special provisions with the federal crop insurance program to allow haying or grazing of cover crops without impacting the insurability of planted 2013 spring crops, a move that can help provide much needed forage and feed this fall and winter for livestock producers. In a separate step, Vilsack will modify emergency loans, allowing loans to be made earlier in the season helping livestock producers to offset increased feed costs and those who have liquidated herds.

“At the direction of the President, USDA continues to work as swiftly as possible to get help to America’s farmers and ranchers by providing flexibility within existing programs, particularly those that assist livestock producers,” Vilsack said. “In the weeks ahead, the Obama Administration will continue to stand with and support our farmers, ranchers and business as they recover from this drought. Still, it is important that Congress pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible, to give USDA more tools to help and to give more certainty to producers in this difficult time.”

Vilsack also designated 33 additional counties in 8 states as natural disaster areas — 23 counties because of drought. In the past six weeks, USDA has designated 1,821 counties in 35 states as disaster areas — 1,692 as a result of drought — while USDA officials have fanned out to more than a dozen drought-affected states as part of a total U.S. government effort to offer support and assistance to those impacted by the drought.

For the 2013 crop year, USDA’s Risk Management Agency —which manages and operates the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation — intends to file special provisions statements to allow haying or grazing of cover crops without impacting the insurability of planted 2013 spring crops. This flexibility will help farmers, if they choose, plant a cover crop without risking crop insurance coverage in 2013, providing much needed forage and feed this fall and winter.

In addition, USDA’s Farm Service Agency will make changes to the emergency loan program that will help producers obtain the loans earlier in the season.

Wide response

At the direction of the President, Secretary Vilsack is helping coordinate an Administration-wide response that has included: the National Credit Union Administration’s increased capacity for lending to customers including farmers; the U.S. Department of Transportation’s emergency waivers for federal truck weight regulations and hours of service requirements to get help to drought-stricken communities; and the Small Business Administration’s issuance of 71 agency declarations in 32 states covering 1,636 counties, providing a pathway for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and non-farm small businesses that are economically affected by the drought in their community to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. President Obama also stressed the need for the entire Administration to continue to look at further steps it can take to ease the pain of this historic drought.

President Obama also recently announced USDA’s intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, which will help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation’s meat supply in line with demand. In addition, within the past six weeks, USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency haying and grazing, lowered the borrower interest rate for emergency loans, and worked with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers.

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