The American Farm Bureau Federation has expressed appreciation for a series of emergency actions announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide much-needed assistance to America’s farm and ranch families suffering from the drought gripping much of the nation.
While the announcement will help many farmers and ranchers, there are areas of the United States that may require expedited assistance due to established grazing prohibitions. These prohibitions would prevent grazing until the nutritional value of the grazing plants has totally been diminished by the drought, according to AFBF.
For many farmers and ranchers, however, the USDA actions will result in immediate flexibility in the nation’s major conservation programs, related to haying, grazing and livestock watering. The actions will help provide crucial assistance to hard-hit livestock producers. Vilsack also said he has additional plans to call on crop insurance companies to provide “a short grace period” since some farmers may struggle to pay insurance premiums at the close of this crop year.
“The drought has reached crisis proportions in certain parts of the country and this flexibility will provide a measure of assistance for the farm and ranch families who need it,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We appreciate the responsiveness and understanding exhibited by Secretary Vilsack during this drought-related emergency, and we are hopeful he will consider additional action for specific areas of the nation where additional grazing prohibitions are in place.”
According to Stallman, feed prices have increased significantly over the last month and available feeding and grazing land is becoming depleted, putting more stress on cattle producers. A record 54 percent of pasture and rangeland is in poor or very poor condition. Some farmers and ranchers have already begun to liquidate their livestock herds.
This is the most widespread drought in more than half a century, with more than 55 percent of the continental United States under moderate to extreme drought conditions. The National Weather Service has forecast increasingly dry conditions over much of the nation’s breadbasket, showing no reprieve in the near future.