The USDA has approved disaster designations for an additional 144 counties affected by the summer drought, including 20 in Ohio.
The designation means qualified farmers in those areas are eligible for low-interest emergency loans. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says has already opened up federal land for grazing, eased conservation agreements, and authorized extensions on crop insurance premiums. He says the feds are also taking
steps to help ranchers thru the drought.
Vilsack: The president earlier this week announced additional purchases of poultry and chicken, pork, lamb and catfish, which are going help farmers with those crops and that livestock; basically stabilize the market a bit, and maybe keep the prices at a good level.
Over 1,600 counties nationwide have been designated disasters due to the drought, and conditions are unlikely to improve before harvest. Vilsack says the uncertainties farmers face are amplified by the fact that the Farm Bill has stalled in Congress.
Vilsack: Well, I think it's put a very intense spotlight on the fact that Congress has not gotten it done. When you are looking at disaster assistance programs that have expired, when you're looking at uncertainty about whether the crop insurance program will be the same, whether the commodities programs are going to be different and if so how, whether we're going to ccontinue to promote trade opportunities, whether we're going to continue to have an energy title that will continue to support the biofuel industry -- all of this uncertain really adds to the stress that these people are under. You know, it's one thing having to wait for mother nature to cooperate and provide rain -- it's another thing to see Congress basically not get it's work done.
More information about low-interest emergency loans is available from county farm service offices. Ohio counties added to the list Wednesday include Butler, Defiance, Fulton, Hamilton, Henry, Paulding, Preble, Putnam, Van Wert and 11 neighboring counties.