WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- President Obama Saturday urged Congress to pass legislation to help farmers and ranchers weather the drought parching much of the United States.
In remarks prepared for delivery during his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama noted July was the hottest month since record-keeping started more than a century ago and the drought is the worst in more than 50 years.
More than a fifth of the country is experiencing "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, he said, noting Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas are getting hit harder than most.
"That's bad news for a lot of people, but it's especially tough on our farmers," Obama said. "Many folks are seeing their livelihoods dry up in front of their eyes. And if we don't get relief soon, Americans everywhere will start feeling the pinch, with higher prices on grocery store shelves all across the country.
"We can't let that happen. That's why, at my direction, the Department of Agriculture, led by Secretary [Tom] Vilsack, has been working with other agencies across the federal government to make sure we're doing everything we can to help farmers and ranchers fight back and recover from this disaster."
The administration has opened more federal land for haying and grazing, provided assistance to get water to livestock and restore affected land, and given farmers, ranchers, and small businesses access to low-interest emergency loans.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck response, and we'll be doing even more in the coming weeks to help families and communities that are suffering right now," Obama said.
"But my administration can't do it alone. Congress needs to do its part, too. They need to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to these kinds of disasters, but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some certainty year-round. That's the single best way we can help rural communities right now, and also in the long-term."
The president called on people to contact their members of Congress and urge them to "get this done."