As dry conditions continue to worsen and spread, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will take steps to help farmers manage the impact of the drought.
"As the drought worsens, it's imperative that Pennsylvania farmers have every tool at their disposal to cope with the possible damage," said Senator Casey. "These commonsense steps will give farmers extra flexibility and assistance to ensure our farms and rural communities are protected from the potential impact of the drought."
The USDA will create and encourage flexibility in four existing programs to help farmers deal with the drought:
Federal Crop Insurance Program - To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, USDA will encourage crop insurance companies to voluntarily forego charging interest on unpaid crop insurance premiums for an extra 30 days, to November 1, 2012, for spring crops. To assist the crop insurance companies, USDA will not require crop insurance companies to pay uncollected producer premiums until one month later.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) -- Farmers will be allowed to modify EQIP contracts to allow for prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, water conservation and other conservation activities to address drought conditions.
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) -- USDA will authorize haying and grazing of WRP easement areas in drought-affected areas where such haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. WRP is a voluntary conservation easement program that provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers to restore and protect valuable wetland resources on their property.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) -- Farmers will be allowed to use additional acres under CRP for haying or grazing under emergency conditions. The action will allow lands that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing. This will increase available forage for livestock. Haying and grazing will only be allowed following the local primary nesting season, which has already passed in most areas.