A modicum of good news for drought-beleaguered farmers. More government agencies are stepping up to provide relief. Frequent Food Law contributor Emilie Cajigas is here with details:

News of the worsening U.S. drought continues to plague the headlines. More than half of all U.S. counties have been designated disaster zones, with some areas reaching the D3 and D4 drought intensity levels. In an effort to assist U.S. Farmers during this time of need, the USDA issued a press releaseon August 8th which announced the various steps the current administration is taking to assist farmers. Many of these steps exhibit some admirable regulatory deftness:

Within the last month, USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency haying and grazing, has lowered the borrower interest rate for emergency loans, and has worked with crop insurance companies to provide more flexibility to farmers. USDA has also announced the following:
  • Allowing producers to modify current EQIP contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions.
  • Authorizing haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands.
  • Lowering the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012.
  • Simplifying the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.

Even the U.S. Small Business Association has stepped up to offer farmers the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). “Those eligible for these loans are small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquacutlure, and most private nonprofit organizations of all sizes that have suffered substantial economic injury resulting from a physical disaster or an agricultural production disaster (as designated by the Secretary of Agriculture).”  In order to receive an EIDL loan, you must fill out an application, which can be done online. After you file, SBA inspector will be sent to estimate the damage incurred in order to gauge the amount of assistance required by individual need.