Governor Steve Beshear today announced his support for new federal actions to help states suffering from extreme drought conditions.
Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced improvements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster designation process and enhancements to existing disaster-related support for American farmers.
"For several weeks, we have been in close contact with Agriculture Commissioner James Comer as well as our state and federal partners, particularly the USDA's Farm Service Agency, as we determine how to best help our farmers who are suffering from the effects of drought," said Gov. Beshear. "I applaud Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's work to speed up the process so our hard-working farm families can get the help they need to endure this terrible drought."
Secretary Vilsack announced the process for Secretarial disaster declarations will be simplified, which will cut the processing time for declarations nearly in half for most counties. He also announced a reduced interest rate for emergency loans; and a smaller payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012 from 25 to 10 percent.
A natural disaster designation makes all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans. The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to designate disaster counties to make disaster assistance programs available to farmers and ranchers. Regulations for this process have not been substantively revised since 1988.
Secretary Vilsack has designated 26 Kentucky counties as primary disaster areas due to drought. Six contiguous counties are also named in the declaration. More than 900 counties in 29 states have been declared disaster areas.
"Although only a fraction of Kentucky counties have been declared agricultural disaster areas, we know that the drought has adversely affected nearly all of our state's 120 counties," said Gov. Beshear. "We will continue to work with our Cabinets, state agencies and federal partners to ensure that counties who meet the national thresholds get their disaster designations quickly, and will aggressively pursue any relief available to support these affected farm families."