WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture Wednesday established two new pieces of disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers suffering losses due to drought.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expanded emergency haying and grazing land for livestock. Approximately 3.8 million acres of conservation land that was previously ineligible for such purposes is now available for emergency haying and grazing.
The USDA said crop insurance companies agreed to give farmers an extra 30 days to make payments without being struck with interest penalties for insurance premiums in 2012.
Vilsack added 218 counties in 12 states to the list of nearly 1,600 counties in 32 states designated as primary natural disaster areas.
"President [Barack] Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time," Vilsack said. "The assistance announced today will help U.S. livestock producers dealing with climbing feed prices, critical shortages of hay and deteriorating pasturelands. Responding to my request, crop insurance companies indicated that producers can forgo interest penalties to help our nation's farm families struggling with cash flow challenges. The Obama administration intends to continue helping those who farm or ranch and live and work in rural America through this period of hardship."