VALLEY — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 30 counties in Colorado as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by the recent drought.
Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in the San Luis Valley also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are: Alamosa; Costilla; and Saguache.
“As drought persists, USDA will continue to partner with producers to see them through longer-term recovery, while taking the swift actions needed to help farmers and ranchers prepare their land and operations for the upcoming planting season,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“I will also continue to work with Congress to encourage passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs bill that gives rural America the long-term certainty they need, including a strong and defensible safety net.”
In 2012, USDA designated 2,245 counties in 39 states as disaster areas due to drought, or 71 percent of the United States. At the height of the 2012 drought, the Secretary announced a series of aggressive USDA actions to get help to farmers, ranchers and businesses impacted by the 2012 drought, including lowering the interest rate for emergency loans, working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers, and expanding the use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying and grazing, which opened 2.8 million acres and brought nearly $200 million in forage for all livestock producers during a critical period. 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 percent.
* 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.
* 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.
Mark Udall welcomed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement on Jan. 9 that it has made farmers and ranchers eligible for drought assistance in 43 counties in southern Colorado, the Western Slope and across the Front Range.
Udall said the ongoing severe drought shows why Congress needs to pass a five-year Farm Bill and renew critical drought-assistance programs as soon as possible.”Colorado and the West are experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record. This ongoing drought threatens our agricultural economy and farm jobs throughout the state,” Udall said.
“This drought is a reminder of why Congress needs an up-to-date, long-term Farm Bill, and not the extension we are stuck with for the next nine months. I continue to question why the U.S. House of Representatives did not pass the bipartisan, deficit-reducing Farm Bill the Senate approved last year. We need to act — and soon — on a new Farm Bill that strengthens farmers and ranchers’ hands as they confront this ongoing drought.”
To learn more about how to apply for assistance, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website or contact your local Farm Service Agency office.