POSTED: 8:41 a.m. HST, Jul 12, 2012
Hawaii and Maui counties are among more than 1,000 counties in 26 states are being named natural-disaster areas in an effort to deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers hurt by natural disasters.
The declaration makes farmers and ranchers in 1,016 counties — about a third of those in the entire country — eligible for low-interest loans to help them weather the drought, wildfires and other disasters, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. The USDA is also changing procedures to allow disaster claims to be processed more quickly and reducing the penalty ranchers are assessed for allowing livestock to graze on land set aside for conservation.
“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy,” Vilsack said. “We need to be cognizant of the fact that drought and weather conditions have severely impacted farmers around the country.”
Moderate to extreme drought now covers about 53 percent of the Midwest, the country’s main growing region, fueling crop- price gains that are the biggest this year among the 24 commodities tracked by the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index. The rallies are boosting costs for companies from McDonald’s Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. to Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Smithfield Foods Inc.
The area covered by the declaration includes most of the Southwest, which has been affected by wildfires, as well as the Southeast and the southern and eastern parts the Corn Belt, mainly Illinois and Indiana. Iowa, the biggest U.S. producer of the grain, is not included.
The declaration also covers counties in the following states: California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Delaware and Hawaii.