Vilsack discusses drought aid for farmers
9 months, 2 weeks ago by Denise Donley
USDA secretary announces two new programs
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced two new pieces of disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers impacted by the nation's worsening drought.
Vilsack is expanding emergency haying and grazing on approximately 3.8 million acres of conservation land to bring greater relief to livestock producers dealing with shortages of hay and pastureland. Any hay that is harvested can be sold, bartered or exchanged so neighbor can help neighbor, if possible.
Also, Vilsack announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012. As a result, farming families now have an extra 30 days to make payments without incurring interest penalties on unpaid premiums. This may allow farm families to have potential access to low interest
Vilsack says, "House Republicans have some concerns, and they may look at a separate drought assistance bill that would provide some assistance to livestock producers. But that is a little bit short of what they need to do to provide the certainty and reduce the stress in farm country as to whether we'll have a farm bill or whether it will be timely done."
To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, Vilsack sent a letter to crop insurance companies asking them to voluntarily defer the accrual of any interest on unpaid spring crop premiums by producers until November 1, 2012. In turn, to assist the crop insurance companies, USDA will not require crop insurance companies to pay uncollected producer premiums until one month later.
USDA has so far designated the local Illinois counties of Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, McDonough, Morgan, Schuyler and Scott as disaster areas. Vilsack says, "Farmers need to be sure their crop insurance agent is aware of the fact that they have damage and let the agent know they may be making a claim. Secondly, they need to keep abreast of the changes that we've made in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and some of the conservation reserve program efforts so they can contact their local FSA office or the NRCS official that they've been working with to make sure that they're in compliance and they take full advantage of these flexibilities that we've created. And they need to keep an eye on Congress and encourage their member of congress when they come home for a 5 week recess to get their work done to get a food, farm and jobs bill passed before September 30th."
When discussing the Food Stamp or SNAP program, Vilsack says 14 cents of every dollar in this program ends up in a farmer's pocket.
He says, "it's part of a safety net in addition to the risk management tools that we have." 92% of those receiving the SNAP or Food stamp program are either
senior citizens, working men and women, or working families that are having a tough time during a difficult economy. Vilsack adds, "It's important to know who benefits from the program."
Looking back to the drought in 1988, only 25% of crop produces had crop insurance, compared to 85% today. "That's certainly an important acknowledgment of a risk management tool that's going to make it a little easier to get through a tough period. If Congress does it's work and disaster assistance is resumed for livestock producers, that
too will be of help," says Vilsack.
"On a consumer side, consumers may experience some decline in food prices, especially in meat, poultry and pork. Simply because there will be liquidation of herds that might create an excess supply for a short period of time. Later in the year there may be some additional shortages that may cause prices to go up a little bit. So even if commodity prices go up substantially you wouldn't expect to see food prices go up that much," adds Vilsack.
Vilsack finishes by saying, "I think it's important that we keep building momentum in the rural economy. Rural manufacturing has come back, unemployment has gone down in rural areas, the farm economy is strong, exports continue to be at record paces. We've got a lot of momentum built in the rural economy, but that momentum could come to a
screeching halt if we don't get a food farm and job bill through the process in a timely fashion."