The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has named 1,000 counties in 26 states as natural-disaster areas after drought conditions swept through most of the Midwest this spring and summer.
With 1,016 counties under natural-disaster nearly one-third of the countries farmers are now eligible for low-interest loans meant to help them weather the lack of crops, wildfires and other natural disasters. The USDA given the grand scale of the drought is also expected to more quickly process any claims raised by farmers and reduce penalties for grazers who allow their livestock to graze on conservation land. The low-interest loans are expected to cost the U.S. government $4 million.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:
“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy. We need to be cognizant of the fact that drought and weather conditions have severely impacted farmers around the country.”
Under current estimates nearly 53 percent of the Midwest is under moderate to extreme drought conditions, a fact that has boosted food prices for major companies including Coca-Cola and McDonald’s Corp.
The declaration also covers the Southwest which has been hit with wildfires and the southern and eastern parts of the Corn Built, specifically in Illinois and Indiana. Iowa, the largest grain producer in the United States has not been as greatly affected.
The USDA claims that as of July 8 approximately 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop was in good or excellent condition, down from 48 percent during the same time period in 2011 and the lowest since the drought of 1988.
Many states are expected to once again witness 90+ degree temperatures once again over the coming week.