U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Bruce Nelson announced that USDA is accepting comments on a proposed rule to streamline the process for its Secretarial Disaster Designation, allowing farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disaster to obtain assistance faster. The improvements outlined in the proposed rule aim to cut the time to make a disaster designation by as much as 70 percent. Designating disaster counties is a key step to authorizing disaster assistance for some of the programs administered by USDA. Disaster assistance provides support to American producers as part of the farm safety net.
A natural disaster designation makes all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for a variety of assistance from USDA, including low interest emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program. The secretary of agriculture is authorized to designate disaster counties to make disaster assistance programs available to farmers and ranchers.
Currently, designations require a state governor to initiate disaster designation through a formal request to the secretary. Streamlining the process from six steps to two will enable USDA to help those in need in an expedited manner, allowing farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disaster to obtain emergency loans faster than before. Additionally, the proposed rule can help to ensure all eligible disaster counties receive a designation.
The proposed rule, which is contained in the Federal Register dated Nov. 14, www.regulations.gov, has a 60-day comment period. Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted no later than Jan. 13, 2012, to be considered.