The first of four regional meetings outlining available resources to assist with local, regional and state drought-recovery efforts is being coordinated by USDA and state and local partners.

To be held Oct 9 in Omaha, NE, the meeting will assess current and emerging drought-recovery issues. Federal agencies will work with local government, community and business leaders, regional planning organizations, and economic and state development and agriculture organizations. They will explore issues ranging from infrastructure challenges to development and financing needs, attempting to look at the total recovery picture for the region.

The other three meetings will be held in Ohio, Colorado and Arkansas. Details are in the works.

USDA also implemented the National Disaster Recovery Framework that links governments with the private sector and organizations that play vital roles in recovery.

All or parts of 39 states have been designated as natural disaster areas this year.

In recent weeks, USDA has:

  • Authorized a two-month extension for emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres through Nov. 30, freeing up forage and feed for ranchers.
  • Announced its intent to buy up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish for federal food-nutrition-assistance programs, including food banks, to help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation's meat supply in line with demand.
  • Allowed emergency loans to be made earlier in the season.
  • Filed special provisions with the federal crop insurance program to allow haying or grazing of cover crops without impacting the insurability of planted 2013 spring crops.
  • Authorized up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate ag practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought.
  • Granted a temporary variance from the National Organic Program's pasture practice standards for organic ruminant livestock producers in 16 states.
  • Authorized nearly $28 million in existing funds from its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought.
  • Initiated transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought.
  • Authorized haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing are consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands.
  • Lowered the reduction in annual rental payments to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25% to 10%.
  • Simplified the disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40%.

Also, to date, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has followed USDA’s disaster declarations and has issued agency declarations covering more than 1,630 counties, providing a pathway for small businesses, small ag cooperatives and non-farm small businesses that are economically affected by the drought in their communities to apply for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).