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12:51 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

USDA discusses long-term response, challenges as drought persists

More than three-fourths of the state of Nebraska remains in an exceptional drought.

The first of four USDA meetings on the drought was held Tuesday in Omaha. The USDA wants to hear from ag producers, small businesses, and communities about their needs following this year’s drought.

Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center says the drought’s impact extends beyond farms. "And now what you’re seeing is some concern due to the lack of snow pack in the Rockies last year, a drought on a water supply, which obviously led to some immediate concerns this summer with regards to barge traffic and moving some of these grains, needing more dredging of those waterways."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says resources to help producers and businesses recover will be limited until a new farm bill is in place.  "If this had occurred last year, we might have been able to provide some cash assistance that might have made it a little bit easier for those livestock producers to get through a difficult time through the disaster programs in the 2008 farm bill, but those were allowed to expire last year and have not been renewed."

Congress won’t take action on the farm bill until after the November 6 election.

Two-thirds of counties in the U.S. have been declared disaster areas due to the drought.