The U.S. Department of Agriculture last week declared over 1,000 counties in 26 states disaster areas because of drought.
While most of the region qualifies as abnormally dry, the lowest on the intensity scale, if a county has suffered drought conditions for eight consecutive weeks, it qualifies as a disaster area. That allows farmers to apply for emergency loans carrying low-interest rates.
Government officials say last week’s declaration is the single largest in the program’s history and the worst drought since 1988.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday a package of program improvements that will deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters.
So, today, we are announcing a Final Rule, which will streamline the disaster designation process. There are essentially a couple of important steps. First of all, we are providing for an automatic qualification for any county that has been in a Drought Monitor D2 condition for 8 consecutive weeks or a D3 condition anytime during the growing season to be automatically qualified under a Secretarial designation. With that change, effective tomorrow, 1,016 primary counties throughout the United States will be designated under the Secretarial designation for 2012. This is the largest single Secretarial designation in the history of our program.
D2 and D3 conditions equal severe and extreme drought, respectively. A complete breakdown of drought intensity and drought impact types can be viewed here.
Vilsack's statement came a day after a report that said heat waves are more likely due to humane-induced climate change, as analyzed by the New York Times.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , the first six months of this year were the warmest on record. 28 states east of the Rockies set temperature records.