July 26, 2012
On July 24, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced additional efforts to assist farmers and ranchers affected by the continuing drought.
Vilsack has taken measures to create and encourage flexibility for grazing and haying on lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). CRP annual rental payments will be reduced by 10 percent for lands that are used for emergency haying or grazing.
According to USDA’s press release, “The action today will allow lands that are not yet classified as ‘under severe drought’ but that are ‘abnormally dry’ to be used for haying and grazing. This will increase available forage for livestock. Haying and grazing will only be allowed following the local primary nesting season, which has already passed in most areas. Especially sensitive lands such as wetlands, stream buffers and rare habitats will not be eligible.”
Producers enrolled in EQIP will also be granted flexibility in implementing their conservation practices if they are water sensitive, and producers whose conservation activities have failed because of drought will receive opportunities to work with NRCS to reapply those activities in the future. NRCS will work with producers who seek to modify their EQIP contracts in order to install prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, water conservation and other conservation activities.
Due to financial hardships producers may encounter during the drought, USDA is also encouraging crop insurance companies under the Federal Crop Insurance Program to voluntarily forego charging interest on unpaid crop insurance premiums until November 1, 2012 for spring crops, giving producers an extra 30 days to make payments.
Qualified farmers in any of the 1,298 counties across 29 states that have been designated as disaster areas are eligible for low-interest emergency loans. Vilsack recently reduced the interest rate for emergency loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.
Read the announcement here.
USDA has created an online resource with additional information and updates on the drought, which can be accessed here.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment