A new USDA fact sheet released this month examines the new, speedier federal disaster declaration process and should clear up confusion about why some areas are automatically declared disasters and others aren't.
According to the fact sheet, agricultural disasters are common. One-half to two-thirds of all counties in the United States have been declared disaster areas in each of the past several years—even when crop production seems to be at its prime.
The Farm Service Agency assists the USDA in disaster declarations. There are four main types of disaster declarations, but the USDA Secretarial disaster designation is the most widely used. A typical disaster designation announcement must include the disaster that caused the designation, the counties affected and the date(s) of the disaster.
Recently, drought declarations have been announced frequently, and are dependent on findings from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Severe drought disasters are declared when any portion of a county meets the Severe Drought, or D2, intensity for more than eight consecutive weeks. If a county reaches D3 level, or Extreme Drought, during the growing season, it too will be declared a disaster area.
This system is part of a new initiative to reduce paperwork at the local FSA level and make processing documents easier.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the improved declaration procedures will "create a more efficient and effective process" to determining drought disaster areas.
The new rule still allows state governors or Indian Tribal Council to request a disaster designation, yet removes the requirement for a designation to be initiated by a governor or tribal council. The rule imposes no additional requirements for disaster declaration on the public or producers.
Further, to obtain a drought declaration from droughts that are not considered severe by the Drought Monitor, the county must either show a 30% production loss of at least one crop or a determination must be made by surveying producers that other lending institutions will not be able to provide emergency financing.
As of July 25, 1,234 counties across 31 states were declared disaster areas due to drought. National corn condition has fallen to 24% good to excellent and 48% is rated at poor to very poor.
Read the entire fact sheet here.
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