The Means to Help Producers Impacted by Drought PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:53 logo

This week, we continued to see historic levels of drought grip much of our nation, impacting thousands of farm families. Although the hard work and innovation of our producers has fueled a strong farm economy in recent years, President Obama and I understand the major challenges this drought poses for American agriculture.

As of July 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 1,055 counties across the country as disaster areas due to drought. Significant portions of many crops are impacted – for example, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, 88 percent of our nation’s corn and 87 percent of our soybeans are in drought-stricken areas. Rising grain prices are threatening livestock and dairy operators with high input costs.

Our farmers and ranchers are no strangers to uncertainty – but it’s even harder to plan for the future when we don’t know how much more severe the drought will be.

Over the years, American producers have constantly innovated to meet new demands and adapt to new conditions, embracing new methods and utilizing new technology. The same innovative spirit that has positioned American agriculture as a global leader has helped to reduce the impact of the drought.

Nevertheless, the uncertainty of drought means this is a very difficult time for many. At President Obama’s direction, USDA is doing all it can within the Department’s existing authority to help.

Last week, I announced a final rule to simplify the process for Secretarial disaster designations – both to speed the process for producers and to reduce the burden on State government officials, who are also hard at work to help producers around the country cope with this disaster.

I reduced the interest rate for Farm Service Agency Emergency Loans, effectively lowering the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent to help ensure that credit is available for farm families who are hit by drought.

And finally, I announced that USDA has lowered payment reductions for Conservation Reserve Program lands that qualify for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent.

USDA officials are traveling to states around the country to see firsthand the impact of the drought, and we will continue to look for ways to help. But the fact is USDA’s legal authority to provide assistance remains limited right now. That’s because the 2008 Farm Bill disaster programs, which were implemented under President Obama, expired last year. Prior to the expiration, these programs helped hundreds of thousands of U.S. producers during disasters.

If Congress doesn’t act, USDA will remain limited in our means to help drought-stricken producers. That’s why President Obama and I continue to call on Congress to take steps to ensure that USDA has the tools it needs to help farm families during the drought. Disaster assistance for producers is also one of many reasons why we need swift action by Congress to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill this year.

I know that many producers are struggling today with the impact of this historic drought. The President and I are committed to doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers in this difficult time.

As all of us across America hope for rainfall, and while USDA does all it can to assist America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities, I hope that Congress will do all it can to help us get the job done.

Braley Leads Iowa Delegation Letter Asking for Immediate Vote on Bipartisan Farm Bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:46

Failing to pass a Farm Bill will only make impact of drought worse


Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today authored a letter so-signed by all five members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation and sent to House leaders asking for an immediate vote on the bipartisan Farm Bill, especially in light of the worsening drought affecting Iowa and the Midwest.


Even though the House Agriculture Committee passed a version of the Farm Bill that earned bipartisan support last week, House Speaker John Boehner has not signaled when the bill will come to the full House for consideration.  The Senate passed their version of the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill last month.


“Iowa farmers are struggling through the worst drought in decades, and failing to pass a Farm Bill would only compound the problem they face,” Braley said.  “Much of the disaster assistance funding in the 2008 Farm Bill has already expired, leaving many farmers without a safety net this year.  If Congress fails to act by September 30th, the Farm Bill will expire and revert to the outdated 1949 Farm Bill.


“Just like millions of small businesses around America, farmers need certainty and confidence in the farm safety net they depend on.  Now more than ever, getting the Farm Bill done is too important for political games.”


Last night, Braley hosted a telephone town hall with Iowa farmers to discuss the Farm Bill and the impact of this year’s drought.


Braley has hosted a dozen listening sessions on the Food, Farm and Job Bill across eastern Iowa this summer. The listening sessions have taken Braley to Grinnell, Independence, Manchester, Marengo, Marshalltown, Peosta, St. Ansgar, Strawberry Point, Toledo, and Vinton.  Also, Braley joined USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at listening session events in Maquoketa and Cedar Rapids last month.


Text of the Iowa delegation’s letter to House leaders follows:




July 20, 2012


The Honorable John Boehner                       

Speaker of the House                         

H-232, the Capitol                       

Washington, DC  20510                         


The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Minority Leader

H-204, the Capitol

Washington, DC  20510


The Honorable Eric Cantor                        

Majority Leader                        

H-329, the Capitol                       

Washington, DC  20510                         


The Honorable Steny Hoyer

Minority Whip

H-148, the Capitol

Washington, DC  20510


Dear Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Cantor, and Minority Whip Hoyer,


We are writing today to request quick consideration of a multi-year farm bill on the House floor. As you know, the House Agriculture Committee favorably reported a bipartisan bill last week that is prepared for quick floor action. The need to extend assistance for farmers gets more urgent every day, given the worsening drought that is blanketing more than half the country.


Just like millions of small businesses across the country, farmers need certainty and confidence in the federal programs that affect their lives. In the United States some sixteen million jobs depend on the success of American agriculture, and the Farm Bill has a huge impact in our home state of Iowa. Agriculture and related industries account for one in six jobs in Iowa and contributes $72 billion into the state’s economy annually. Failure to quickly pass a farm bill will have a devastating impact on our constituents and the agriculture industry across the country.


As the agriculture industry across the country faces the worst drought in decades, we’re particularly concerned that failure to act on a farm bill quickly could only exacerbate the current challenges faced by thousands of farmers. Much of the disaster assistance funding in the 2008 Farm Bill has already expired, leaving many farmers without a safety net this year. Without action prior to September 30, the bill’s remaining programs will expire reverting to laws passed under the outdated 1949 Farm Bill. It is vital that we get a Farm Bill passed out of the House prior to the August recess.


Farmers feed our nation, and we need to make sure to provide them the tools they need so that they can continue to deliver safe, affordable food to the table. Every American has a stake in this bill.


Please do what you can to bring forward the multi-year Farm Bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee. We stand prepared to work with you in a bipartisan manner to accomplish this goal.




Bruce Braley

Tom Latham

Leonard Boswell

Steve King

Dave Loebsack



# # #

News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Laurie Johns   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:44

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – July 20, 2012 – Like many Iowa parents and homeowners, Ben Albright of Lytton set up the sprinkler on the Fourth of July. But it wasn’t for the enjoyment of his young son or for the sake of his scorched grass, it was for the comfort of his cattle. As temperatures climbed into the triple digits (again), Albright spent most of his time making sure his herd had access to shade and water.

“Even on hot holidays, farmers are taking care of their livestock,” said Albright. “It’s a 365-day, 24/7 type of job.”

This summer’s heat has caused near-drought conditions for much of Iowa; taking its toll on the crops and pastures. Livestock producers depend on both: grain for feed and pastures for grazing. Farmers are watching crop prices increase and seeing pastures dry up, so it takes extra effort to make the most of their water sources, pastures and buildings. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (, only 1 percent of Iowa’s pasture conditions are rated excellent, with 26 percent rated very poor. Farmers are concerned about providing enough forage for their livestock and protecting the soil and environment, as well.

Randy Dreher, a cattle farmer near Audubon, carefully manages his herd’s grazing systems, rotating the cattle among his pastures to allow the cattle to find sufficient forage and keep the areas growing and sustainable.

“I’ve worked closely with my Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) representative, setting up a system that provides many environmental benefits including increased water infiltration, reduced soil moisture evaporation and better manure distribution,” said Dreher.

Daily, Dreher measures how much forage the cattle eat, how much his pastures can supply and preparing himself to offer hay as a supplement.  Because of his close attention to managing his natural resources, he says he’s able to feed more cattle per acre than if he didn’t use such a system.

Over in Prairieburg in Linn County, Jason Russell is tending to his livestock, too, but he’s dealing with a different species and using different farming methods.

Russell raises hogs indoors, which means while the mercury climbs to the triple-digits outside, his animals have shade, water and food in comfortable surroundings. The barn is equipped with a 12-stage heating and cooling control system, sprinklers, fans and side curtains that can be raised and lowered.

“Raising hogs indoors is the right system for my family,” said Russell. “It allows us to successfully manage our resources and keep a close eye on our animals. The building is cool and comfortable in the summer and warm and dry in the winter time. It’s good for us and our animals’ health.”

Healthy animals mean healthy food. And that’s good for everyone when they go to the store to buy their favorite summer meals, including burgers and brats.



Drought-Ravaged Crops, $8 Corn, Food Cost Fallout, Global Ag Market Swings: What's Next? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by K. Firebaugh   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:43

Today's leading national economists, climatologists and market analysts bring these answers and their expertise to Ames July 23-24 for the Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit.

Among the featured speakers at the two-day event:

  • U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's Jason Henderson
  • Daniel Mitchell of the Cato Institute
  • Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M economist
  • Elwynn Taylor, ISU Professor of Ag Meteorology

More than 400 farmers are also going to be in attendance to gather the latest market and drought-recovery insights from these nationally-recognized economic and ag market business leaders.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit will be held at the Scheman Center at Iowa State University and is free to media.

For a complete look at the agenda, click here:

For more information or to confirm registration or arrange media interviews, please contact Laurie Johns now at 515-225-5414 or by email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Media Advisory: USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan to Host #ASKUSDA Virtual Office Hours on Local Food PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:07

Focus on 2.0 version of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2012—On Tuesday, July 24, at 1:30 pm EDT, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will host a live Twitter chat focusing on the Department’s support for local and regional food systems and the recent release of the 2.0 version of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. Deputy Secretary Merrigan will answer your questions about the Department’s work related to local food and ways the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass can assist your community.

This Twitter chat is a follow-up to last week’s Google+ Hangout hosted by the White House and USDA on the same topic.

The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is a digital guide to USDA resources that support of regional food production. Originally released in February 2012, the 2.0 version of the Compass guide contains new case studies of successful regional food projects, while the interactive map feature now includes data on food hubs, farmers markets, meat processing facilities and more, as well as data on USDA-supported projects in all fifty states. The map is also searchable by key word and zip code, enabling users to zero in on the topics or regions that interest them most and see how USDA can help.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 

1:30 p.m. EDT 

WHAT: USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan will answer questions about USDA’s suppor for local and regional food systems and the 2.0 version of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.

Follow the @USDA Twitter account. Use hashtags #askUSDA and #KYF2 to submit questions in advance and during the live Twitter chat

USDA Virtual Office Hours, a monthly live question and answer series, allows stakeholders to directly engage with USDA leadership and subject matter experts through Twitter. Sessions are focused on a specific mission, issue or program as aligned with the Department’s strategic goals and based on stakeholder interests.


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