[r74] Ellspermann Edition: Tools and process improvements made by USDA to help farmers affected by drought (7/13/2012)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Start Date: 7/13/2012 Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 7/13/2012 End Time: 11:59 PM

The ongoing drought in Indiana is one of the worst on record. Indiana is the fifth largest corn and soybean producer in the nation and by far the hardest hit of those top producers with 30 percent of the state declared to be in extreme drought. I’m praying for rain, as I’m sure many of you are as well, to help Hoosier farmers recover.

In the meantime, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Thursday, July 12 that 1,016 counties across the country have been declared disaster areas due to eight or more consecutive weeks of extreme drought. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack indicated that they will be making process improvements in order to deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers devastated by one of the longest lasting droughts in our nation’s history.

In order to better help farmers in the designated disaster areas, USDA will offer a reduced rate for emergency loans that effectively lowers the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent, providing eligibility requirements are met. USDA will also create a payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012 from 25 to 10 percent.

This is all part of a larger effort by the USDA to streamline and improve their disaster designation processes. Through that effort, USDA Secretary Vilsack expects to reduce the amount of time required for designating a disaster area by 40 percent, which means help can reach those affected faster.

This streamlining effort includes removing the requirement that a request for a disaster designation be initiated by a state governor, which increases the likelihood that counties will be covered. State governors may still submit a request for a designation, but it will not be required in order to initiate a disaster declaration.

USDA is urging all farmers to contact their crop insurance companies as well as their local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Centers to report damages to crops or livestock loss. In addition, they are reminding livestock producers to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as food purchased due to lost supplies. If you’d like more information from the USDA on disaster recovery assistance you may visit their website at www.usda.gov/disaster. Additional resources, such as a drought monitor and crop information, from the Indiana page of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Purdue Extension can be found at www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/drought.

On a more positive note, our community can be very proud of our local K-12 students who once again scored very well on the ISTEP+ test this year. Particularly Ferdinand Elementary School, which had the highest results in the state with 99 percent of students passing the English Language Arts and Math sections of the ISTEP+. This is the second year in a row Ferdinand Elementary has been at the top of the list. This is an incredible accomplishment that the students, parents, teachers and administration there have worked diligently for. Congratulations to everyone involved. I applaud their hard work.

If you have any questions regarding the drought, please contact my office by phone at 317-232-9769 or by email at H74@in.gov .

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Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand)

Ellspermann Edition, Tools and process improvements made by USDA to help farmers affected by drought, 7-12-12.doc