More than 1,000 counties in 26 states are being named natural-disaster areas, the biggest such declaration ever by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as drought grips the Midwest.
The declaration makes farmers and ranchers in 1,016 counties eligible for low-interest loans to help them weather the drought and other disasters, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. The USDA is also changing procedures to allow disaster claims to be processed more quickly, Vilsack said.
“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy,” Vilsack said, adding that the government is ready to help farmers and communities “when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”
Moderate to extreme drought now covers about 53 percent of the Midwest, the country’s main growing region, fueling crop- price gains that are the biggest this year among the 24 commodities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index. The rallies are boosting costs for companies from McDonald’s Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. to Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Smithfield Foods Inc.
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