As communities across the country struggle with the impacts of one of the worst droughts in decades, President Obama is committed to ensuring that his administration isdoing everything it canhelp to farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted, according to a fact sheet released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To respond to immediate needs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies are using their existing authorities wherever possible to address the hardships arising from the lack of water, feed, and forage. Within the last month, USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency haying and grazing, has lowered the borrower interest rate for emergency loans, and has called on crop insurance companies to provide more flexibility to farmers. The Department of the Interior has provided additional grazing flexibility on federal lands and the Small Business Administration is working to help with access to investment capital and credit in affected communities.
On Tuesday, August 7, President Obama convened his White House Rural Council for one of a continuing series of policy meetings to review Executive Branch response actions and to develop additional policy initiatives to assist drought-stricken Americans. Following the meeting, the White House announced several new measures the Administration is implementing to help those impacted by the drought, including providing additional assistance for livestock and crop producers, increasing the capacity for lending to small businesses, and waiving certain requirements on trucks helping to provide relief. President Obama also stressed the need for the entire administration to continue to look at further steps it can take to ease the pain of this historic drought.
As the drought continues, the administration will actively implement its longer-term strategy for assessing and managing the effects of the crisis. In addition to impacts on farming and ranching operations, a long-term, widespread drought will also have implications for wildfires, water availability, navigation, and power generation across much of the country and across other sectors. Moving forward, the administration will work closely with state and local governments, farming and ranching communities and others to ensure an effective and efficient response and recovery.
Finally, while the administration is exploring every possible avenue to provide relief from the impacts of the drought, Congress still needs to act to ensure that the needed disaster assistance is available to these communities. The best way to do that is by passing a comprehensive, multi-year farm bill that not only provides much-needed disaster assistance but gives farmers and ranchers the certainty they deserve while enacting critical reforms.