Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a package of program improvements to deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters. He announced three significant improvements to decades-old USDA programs and processes related to secretarial disaster designations, including:

  • A final rule that simplifies the process for secretarial disaster designations and will result in a 40% reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters;
  • A reduced interest rate for emergency loans that effectively lowers the current rate from 3.75% to 2.25%;
  • A payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25% to 10%. 

Secretary Vilsack said, “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."