Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $11.8 million in additional financial and technical assistance to help crop and livestock producers in 22 states apply conservation practices that reduce the impacts of drought and improve soil health and productivity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides this assistance through its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Since early summer, USDA has announced a variety of assistance to producers impacted by the drought, including opening conservation acres to emergency haying and grazing, lowering the interest rate for emergency loans, and working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers. Just a few weeks ago, USDA announced $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse impacts of the historic drought.

In July, USDA announced it would allow producers to modify current EQIP contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions, and also authorized haying and grazing of easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. Today’s announcement expands upon these efforts and brings the total assistance to nearly $28 million.

“As this drought continues to impact American farming and ranching families, USDA will be there to help our agriculture sector recover,” Vilsack said. “This additional assistance builds on a number of steps USDA and other federal agencies have taken over the past few months to provide resources and flexibility in our existing programs to help producers endure these hardships. But Congress also needs to act, and the urgency to pass a comprehensive, multi-year food, farm and jobs bill is greater than ever.”

See the additional NRCS drought assistance received by each state at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/?cid=STELPRDB1048818.