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News Update

August 9, 2011

Secretary Vilsack Reassures Farmers and Ranchers
in States Affected by Extreme Weather

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today pledged his commitment to the nation’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would continue to work to deliver assistance to those affected by recent extreme weather, including floods, drought, fires and tornadoes. Vilsack said that USDA would work to offer flexibility to producers and encouraged producers to contact their local county or state USDA Service Center or Farm Service Agency (FSA) office for assistance. Vilsack also announced additional flexibility in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that will assist producers struggling from drought in a number of states.

“America’s farmers and rural communities are vitally important to our nation’s economy and our values, and my heart goes out to all who are facing hardships because of severe weather and natural disasters,” said Vilsack. “At USDA, we are working tirelessly to get assistance to folks who need it and are searching for flexibility in our programs to help farmers and ranchers in these difficult times. We will continue to listen to producers’ concerns and, whenever possible, offer assistance to help put people on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.”

Vilsack has issued disaster designations for 547 counties in 30 states. So far, producers have received $693 million in indemnity payments to help recover from disasters, including more than $520 million to those affected by drought and $88 million to those affected by flooding. Additional assistance for livestock producers affected by the drought comes from the Livestock Forage Program which has already provided $114 million nationwide and over $50 million in Texas, $24 million in Oklahoma, and $11 million in New Mexico. This timely assistance helps ranchers purchase feed for their livestock when they need it most.

USDA has also offered more than $30 million in emergency loans to help about 280 producers recover from production and physical losses due to disaster. To provide producers additional flexibility, USDA has contacted all current loan-holders in disaster affected counties and offered them the opportunity for a ‘disaster set-aside’ — permission to put off their next annual payment to the final year of their loan. So far, 230 producers are taking advantage of this option.

USDA is also working to rebuild local economies by making housing and business assistance programs available to help finance repair and replacement of homes and businesses in rural communities. To help feed families in need during the recovery efforts, USDA is also providing nearly $149 million in Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to more than 1.1 million individuals in 466,080 households in 11 states.

USDA has also made available about $27 million in financial and technical assistance to help 25 states restore damaged and flooded land by assisting with debris removal and other repairs. To ensure assistance quickly got to those in need, USDA provided funds immediately to states to enable the states to respond quickly to any urgent needs.

USDA reminds producers affected by extreme weather that resources are available to cover losses, including losses to livestock, crops, orchard trees, and private forests. Types of USDA assistance to farmers and ranchers may include the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), federal crop insurance, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

USDA continues working with state and local officials, as well as our federal partners, to make sure people have the necessary resources to recover from these challenges. To find the USDA Service Center nearest you, please visit

To learn more about USDA’s disaster assistance, please visit

Vilsack Announces Changes to CRP to Assist Producers Impacted by Severe Drought Conditions

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Aug. 9 that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) is modifying its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) policies to help those affected by sustained drought conditions. Throughout this year of extreme weather, USDA has supported and delivered assistance to farmers, ranchers, and rural communities across the country.

“We continue to do all we can to help thousands of farmers and ranchers in the southwestern United States who are struggling from drought,” said Vilsack. “Many ranchers have been or will be forced to sell livestock due to drought and USDA will do what we can to help our farmers and ranchers during these challenging times.”

The policy changes influence FSA rules governing emergency grazing. The period normally allowed for emergency grazing lasts through Sept. 30, 2011. FSA is permitting farmers and ranchers in drought-stricken states who have been approved for emergency grazing, including those in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, to extend the emergency grazing period to Oct. 31, 2011, without an additional payment reduction.

Producers wishing to participate in emergency grazing must first request permission from the FSA county office by indicating the acreage to be grazed.

As a second condition designed to help livestock producers, FSA will allow producers nationwide to utilize harvested hay from expiring CRP acres when those acres are being prepared for fall seeded crops. Prior to this modification, all mechanically harvested hay was required to be destroyed. This change enables livestock producers to feed the hay that is mechanically harvested to their own livestock or to sell or donate hay. Consistent with existing policy for managed or emergency haying and grazing of eligible CRP acres, rental payments will be reduced by 25% for those utilizing this option.

“We are eager to do all we can in the face of this drought crisis across the southern plains,” said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson. “This has been one of the worst dry and hot spells since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.”

For further information about the Conservation Reserve Program and Emergency Haying and Grazing, producers are encouraged to visit their USDA Service Centers or go online to Search under Conservation Programs and Disaster Assistance.

Much of Kansas, Other States Continue in Drought Conditions

Dry conditions through vast swaths of the country, including parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, are influencing everyone from homeowners to farmers to business managers. But, a short-term dry spell and a full-fledged drought are not the same thing.

“Drought is a major focus for many this summer,” said Kansas climatologist Mary Knapp. “One means of measuring a drought is the Drought Severity Classification developed by the National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska.” (

When conditions are drier than usual because of a lack of rainfall or snow, factors including soil moisture levels, weekly streamflow, precipitation, and the Palmer Drought Index are taken into account to determine conditions across the country. For instance, about 75% of Kansas currently is experiencing “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought” conditions, said Knapp, who maintains the Kansas Weather Data Library at Kansas State University (K-State).

“It’s really eye-opening to view the Drought Monitor that shows the whole United States. You get the full extent of the current drought situation.”

The conditions in affected areas have forced sales of cattle due to a lack of forage. They’ve curbed crop development and dried out home landscapes. Water-use restrictions are in place in multiple locations, and the drought has taken a toll on water quality in some areas, she said.

A comparison of the various indices used to determine the severity of dry conditions and their current values for Kansas climate divisions are on the Kansas Water Office web page (

The rankings used by the National Drought Mitigation Center are:

More information about drought conditions in Kansas and other weather information is available at The Kansas Weather Data Library is part of K-State Research and Extension.

Farm Production Expenditures Climb Slightly in 2010

After a brief reprieve in 2009, last year farm production expenditures resumed an upward trend. In 2010, U.S. farmers reported spending $289 billion to produce agricultural products, up from $287.4 billion in the prior year. The Farm Production Expenditures 2010 summary released Aug. 2, 2011, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS) provides national, regional and crop and livestock farm expenditures.

Highlights from the 2010 summary include:

The Farm Production Expenditures summary provides the official estimates for production input costs on U.S. farms and ranches. These estimates are based on the results of the nationwide Agricultural Resource Management Survey, conducted annually by NASS. The Farm Production Expenditures 2010 summary and all NASS reports are available online at

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