U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Collin Peterson and Tim Walz announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a disaster declaration for counties in Minnesota affected by the ongoing drought. This declaration means that farmers in these counties are now eligible for emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency to help cover crop or livestock losses.
"As this drought continues it's putting increasing strain on Minnesota's farmers and ranchers," Klobuchar said. "This action by the USDA is another important step in helping our farmers get through these challenging times, and I will continue to work to ensure they have the support they need."
"Minnesota's farmers and livestock producers need to know they'll be able to survive a bad year, and this assistance will help them cover their losses and get back on their feet," Franken said. "I've been fighting for legislation that would restore federal drought relief programs that have lapsed, and it's still incredibly important that we pass a comprehensive Farm Bill this year so farmers all over the country know they can count on a safety net when their livelihoods are threatened."
"Producers across the country have been impacted by weather conditions out of their control. I'm pleased to see USDA utilize existing farm bill programs to provide Minnesota farmers with much-needed relief," Peterson said. "I remain committed to ensuring a strong safety net is in place by continuing to urge my colleagues in the House to pass a five-year farm bill."
"This important action by the USDA will work to give farmers and ranchers peace of mind during these difficult times," Walz said. "What rural America needs now is certainty. House leadership should follow USDA's lead and bring the bipartisan five-year farm bill forward for a vote. I will continue working with my colleagues in the House to push leadership to make this happen. Minnesota's farmers and ranchers can't wait."
The declaration designates Becker, Beltrami, Blue Earth, Brown, Clay, Cottonwood, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Jackson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Martin, Mower, Murray, Norman, Pennington, Pipestone, Polk, Red Lake and Watonwan counties as a primary disaster area. Cass, Clearwater, Dodge, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Le Sueur, Lincoln, Lyon, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Roseau, Steele, Wadena, Waseca, Wilkin and Winona counties have been designated contiguous disaster counties.
Last month, Klobuchar and Franken sent President Obama a letter urging a coordinated and immediate response to the drought. In the letter, the senators called on the president to quickly form an Interagency Drought Task Force to bring together officials from every federal agency to coordinate responses and help provide relief to those affected by the drought.