Many of those same actions continue to bring relief to producers ahead of the 2013 planting season, including:
-Simplified the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40%.
-Transferred $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures.
-Updated the emergency loans application process to allow these loans to be made earlier in the season.
-Filed 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.
-Authorized up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought.
-Authorized $16 million in existing funds from its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought.
-Installed conservation systems that impacted more than 1 million producers, and reduced water withdrawn from the Ogallala Aquifer by at least 860,000 acre feet, equivalent to the domestic water use of approximately 9.6 million individuals for a year.
-Worked with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility on premium payments to farmers, and one-third of all policyholders took advantage of the payment period.
-Partnered with local governments, colleges, state and federal partners to conduct a series of regional drought workshops with hundreds of producers in Nebraska, Colorado, Arkansas, and Ohio.
A natural disaster designation makes all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans. The interest rate on emergency loans currently stands at 2.15%, providing a resource for producers hoping to recover from production and physical losses associated with natural disasters.
Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA's drought response and assistance.
The 597 primary counties designated as disaster areas today correspond to the following states: Alabama, 14; Arkansas, 47; Arizona, 4; Colorado, 30; Georgia, 92; Hawaii, 2; Kansas, 88; Oklahoma, 76; Missouri, 31; New Mexico, 19; Nevada, 9; South Carolina, 11; Texas, 157; and Utah, 17.
For more information about the specific state designations, visit the Farm Service Agency's disaster designations page.