Pueblo, CO, Oct 16, 2012 -- Thomas Guevara, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs at the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, joined Colorado Agricultural Commissioner John Salazar, along with other federal, state and local officials yesterday for the second in a series of regional workshops to outline resources available to assist with drought recovery efforts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with local, state and federal partners to hold the workshops, working closely with the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to facilitate these meetings. Over 100 participants, including stakeholders, joined Guevara and Salazar to discuss the drought’s affects on water quality and quantity, community and economic impacts, and agriculture and agribusiness. Currently, more than two-thirds of the country is affected by the drought. Participants in the meeting offered thoughts on developing a new framework for cooperation among local, state and federal partners when it comes to drought recovery, and shared ideas about how to establish long-term relationships at all levels in these communities.
At the direction of President Obama, USDA is helping coordinate an Administration-wide response to the drought that has included: giving the National Credit Union Administration's increased capacity for lending to customers, including farmers; the U.S. Department of Transportation allowing emergency waivers for federal truck weight regulations and hours of service requirements to reach drought-stricken communities; increased outreach and emergency lending by the Small Business Administration; and more. With its decades of experience helping regions stricken by natural disasters, EDA stands ready to support this multiagency effort to partner with the farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and rural areas that have been impacted by the drought to help set them on the path to economic recovery.
The next meeting will be held tomorrow in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, with a meeting to follow in November in Ohio.
(You can view a White House fact sheet outlining efforts by non-USDA Federal agencies here.)
As of Oct. 2, 2012, USDA has designated all or parts of 39 states as natural disaster areas. USDA continues to encourage any farmer or rancher with questions to contact a USDA Service Center office, because even with limited legal authority, USDA has worked hard to offer tools to help.
The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. USDA's crop insurance program currently insures 264 million acres, 1.14 million policies, and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms. In response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. Since 2009, USDA has provided more than 128,000 loans to family farmers totaling more than $18 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).