Lack of rainfall and snow, coupled with unusually warm temperatures, have resulted in drought conditions across Nebraska. Ranchers are struggling to feed their livestock and farmers are already worried about this season’s crop. As they continue to work tirelessly to feed a growing population, federal and state governments are working to provide much-needed relief.
The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued primary or contiguous Secretarial disaster designations for all Nebraska counties as a result of drought conditions. This allows farmers and ranchers in these counties to be eligible on a case-by-case basis for emergency loans with reduced interest rates.
The drought highlights the need for Congress to pass a farm bill this year. I’ve heard over and over again from Nebraska producers that crop insurance is the best protection against Mother Nature. Last year’s Senate-passed farm bill strengthens the crop insurance provisions. This legislation, unfortunately, did not become law. I’m working with my fellow members of the Senate Agriculture Committee to ensure a long-term farm bill gets signed into law so our ag producers have the certainty and risk-management tools they need during these challenging times.
Last summer, I was pleased when Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack approved my request for statewide emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program land. The Secretary also allowed producers to modify Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts and permitted haying and grazing on Wetlands Reserve Program acres. This relief is much needed for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers struggling to cope with forage needs during one of the worst droughts in our country’s history. Governor Dave Heineman also authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought, which allows the state of Nebraska to provide personnel and resources to assist in drought emergencies. Such actions may be needed this year as well.
I will continue to monitor the drought in Nebraska and you are always welcome to call any of my offices across the state or in DC if you have questions, comments or need assistance. Click here for my contact information or here to send me your comments.