Farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters should get help faster with streamlined programs, announces USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The changes include:

• A simplified disaster designation process that will result in a 40% reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters.

• A lowered interest rate for emergency loans from the current rate of 3.75% to 2.25%.

• A reduced payment reduction for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25% to 10%.

“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy, and it is increasingly important that USDA has the tools to act quickly and deliver assistance to farmers and ranchers when they need it most,” says Vilsack.

“By amending the secretarial disaster designation, we’re creating a more efficient and effective process. And by delivering lower interest rates on emergency loans and providing greater flexibility for haying and grazing on CRP lands, we’re keeping more farmers in business and supporting our rural American communities through difficult times. With these improvements, we’re also telling American producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”