Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced $11.8 million in additional financial and technical assistance to help crop and livestock producers in 22 states apply conservation practices that reduce the impacts of drought and improve soil health and productivity.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides this assistance through its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Since early summer, USDA has announced a variety of assistance to producers impacted by the drought, including opening conservation acres to emergency haying and grazing, lowering the interest rate for emergency loans, and working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers.
Just a few weeks ago, USDA announced $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse impacts of the historic drought.
In July, the Secretary announced USDA would allow producers to modify current EQIP contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions, and also authorized haying and grazing of WRP easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands.
Today’s announcement expands upon these efforts and brings the total assistance to nearly $28 million.
“As this drought continues to impact American farming and ranching families, USDA will be there to help our agriculture sector recover,” said Vilsack.
“This additional assistance builds on a number of steps USDA and other federal agencies have taken over the past few months to provide resources and flexibility in our existing programs to help producers endure these hardships. But Congress also needs to act, and the urgency to pass a comprehensive, multi-year food, farm and jobs bill is greater than ever.”
See the additional NRCS drought assistance  received by each state at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/?cid=STELPRDB1048818 .
Funding from NRCS targets states that are experiencing either exceptional or extreme drought conditions.
Exceptional drought continues to dominate sections of Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming, causing widespread losses of crops and pastures and water shortages in reservoirs, streams and wells.
Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah are under extreme drought, with accompanying major losses of crops and pasture, widespread water shortages and restrictions on water use.
Learn more about drought categories at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ .
The additional funding will allow NRCS to address the backlog in applications from the previous drought assistance signup, as well as accept new applications from producers interested in applying selected conservation practices to address drought, including prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities and water conservation practices. Producers can also apply for financial assistance to re-install conservation practices that failed due to drought.
(For additional coverage of the 2012 drought, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/drought ).