U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has made the first USDA disaster designations of 2013. He designated 597 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat on Wednesday.
All qualified farm operators in the areas are now eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
As drought persists, Vilsack says USDA will continue to partner with producers to see them through longer-term recovery. He says USDA will also take the swift actions needed to help farmers and ranchers prepare their land and operations for the upcoming planting season.
In addition - Vilsack plans to continue working with Congress to encourage passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs bill that gives rural America the long-term certainty they need - including a strong and defensible safety net.