More Disaster Designations and USDA Assistance
USDA has now designated nearly 18-hundred counties as disaster areas. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack designated another 172 counties in 15 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat Wednesday. Of the now 1,792 counties designated - 1,670 are due to drought. Secretary Vilsack also announced the availability of up to five-million dollars in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting applications for Conservation Innovation Grants to help producers build additional resiliency into their production systems.
Also Wednesday - in response to a request from five National Organic Program certifying agents - USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service announced USDA will grant a temporary variance from pasture practice standards for organic ruminant livestock producers in 16 states. This temporary variance only applies to the 2012 calendar year and only covers counties that the Secretary of Agriculture has declared as primary natural disaster areas in 2012. Additional restrictions are that the temporary variance only applies to non-irrigated pasture and producers must supply at least 15-percent of their dry matter intake - on average - from certified organic pasture.
Vilsack says USDA is committed to using existing authorities wherever possible to help the farmers, ranchers, small businesses and communities being impacted by the drought. In the past month - he notes USDA has streamlined the disaster designation process, reduced interest rates on emergency loans, and provided flexibility within our conservation programs to support struggling producers.
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