Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new flexibility and assistance in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) major conservation programs to get much-needed help to livestock producers as the most wide-spread drought in seven decades intensifies in the United States. He also encouraged crop insurance companies to provide a short grace period for farmers on unpaid insurance premiums.
The assistance announced uses the Secretary's existing authority to help create and encourage flexibility within four USDA programs:
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) -- Additional acres under CRP that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" can now be used for haying and grazing.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) -- Current EQIP contracts may be modified by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to allow for prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, water conservation and other conservation activities to address drought conditions.
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) -- For producers with land currently enrolled in this program, NRCS has expedited its Compatible Use Authorization process to allow for haying and grazing of WRP easement areas.
Federal Crop Insurance Program - To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, USDA will encourage crop insurance companies to voluntarily forego charging interest on unpaid crop insurance premiums for an extra 30 days, to Nov. 1, for spring crops. In turn, to assist the crop insurance companies, USDA will not require them to pay uncollected producer premiums until one month later.
For additional information and updates about USDA's efforts, visit www.usda.gov/drought.