Extreme drought conditions across the state and the country have a big impact on Arkansas agriculture production. Take a look at this recent U.S. Drought Monitor map. Almost half of Arkansas is suffering from exceptional drought conditions, the worst of four categories.
As we kicked off our annual agriculture tour we visited with ranchers in Conway. We heard stories much like agriculture producers are experiencing all over our country; they are struggling with serious problems due to the lack of rain. "Livestock producers are facing unprecedented troubles with water problems, not having feed" I told the Log Cabin Democrat. As Fox16 reported on our visit to the Livestock Auction, the drought is making it difficult ranchers to maintain their herd.
We have taken steps to reduce the challenges Arkansas agriculture producers are facing. The Arkansas Congressional Delegation supported Governor Beebe's request for federal disaster assistance which made Arkansas eligible for emergency funding. I also joined many of my colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee in sending a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture requesting that he use all of his existing authority to provide relief, and pointed out the vulnerability of the livestock industry.
Not only is the widespread drought affecting the availability of hay and grazing pasture, but the drought will also have an impact on the availability and price of our grains for both livestock feed and the production of food, the effects of which will be felt by every American. Because of this, I and many of my Senate colleagues sent Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the EPA, a letter requesting that she use her existing authority to adjust the corn-ethanol mandate of the Renewable Fuel Standard in order to prevent a potentially catastrophic shortage in our nation's corn supply.
I am pleased to see the administration today has taken steps to provide money and flexibility in providing our ranchers with funding to help maintain their herds. Arkansas will receive nearly $3.5 million through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture, to help crop and livestock producers cope with the impacts of these drought conditions. At the same time, there is more we can do to protect our livestock producers as well as middle class families at the check out line.