The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday added more counties and states to the list of drought disaster areas and announced more aid to drought-plagued ranchers, committing a total of $30 million in various forms of disaster relief.
The USDA designated $16 million in “financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse impacts of the historic drought,” the agency said in a bulletin. The USDA will also transfer $14 million from its unobligated program fund into the Emergency Conservation Program to help move water to livestock, provide emergency forage and rehabilitate drought-damaged land.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 44 more counties in 12 states as “primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat,” the USDA said. The most severe drought exists in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and Nebraska, the USDA said, while Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin are experiencing extreme drought.
This is in addition to the states and counties singled out for drought disaster relief at the end of July. So far during this crop year, the USDA has designated disaster areas in 33 states across 1,628 counties, 1,496 of those due to drought, making qualified farm operators in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans, the USDA said.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 66 percent of the country’s hay acreage is in drought-stricken areas, with 73 percent of the country’s cattle acreage is toiling in drought. Two-thirds of the country is in drought, the worst since the 1950s.
“This additional assistance builds on a number of steps USDA has taken over the past few weeks to provide resources and flexibility in our existing programs to help producers endure these serious hardships,” Vilsack said in the statement.
More disaster and drought assistance can be found on the USDA website.
More on the drought’s effect on Indian Country: