While the U.S. Department of Agriculture, headed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, has promised to increase aid to American farmers afflicted by the worst drought in fifty years, some experts are wondering if the department has the resources to deal with the severity of the current weather crisis.
For the past several months, farmers across the country have been struggling with the worst drought in recent American history. The record-breaking temperatures and lower than average rainfall are creating some of the worst weather conditions the country has seen in more than fifty years. More than two-thirds of the country is currently experiencing some form of drought, with more than one-third experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions.
In response, Secretary Vilsack has pledged to boost aid to struggling farmers. The USDA has already opened up Conservation Reserve land in moderately dry areas to farmers looking to grow hay for livestock feed. In a rare move Vilsack has also allowed farmers using Conservation Reserve land to sell some of the hay they grow, allowing farmers who have lost significant amounts of their summer harvest to recoup some losses. In addition to direct aid, Vilsack has requested that crop insurers give struggling farmers extra time to make premium payments, suggesting that farmers in drought-afflicted areas have a grace period extending to November 1.
Despite these efforts, Vilsack has acknowledged that his ability to help is marginal. “Our tools are limited,” Vilsack told reporters in Iowa. “We are continuing to look at ways in which we can provide help and assistance.” The best way to help farmers, Vilsack has insisted, would be for Congress to pass a new farm bill and renew critical drought assistance programs.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer