Bennet, Udall Applaud Improvements to USDA Disaster Designation Process

Streamlined Process Will Bring Assistance to Farmers, Ranchers Quicker

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today applauded the announcement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the agency is implementing improvements to its disaster designation process that will deliver faster and more flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters.

“With severe drought conditions, it is critical that farmers and ranchers in Colorado have quick and efficient access to USDA resources,” Bennet said. “Agriculture is a vital and historic industry in our state, and we must give farmers and ranchers the tools they need to continue growing at a time when our economy is just now getting back on its feet. The changes announced today by the USDA will help make these important disaster assistance resources more accessible to producers in Colorado.”

“Colorado’s farmers and ranchers work at the mercy of Mother Nature. When drought and other natural disasters impact agricultural producers’ ability to make ends meet, the federal government has a significant role to play in getting aid to affected farmers and ranchers,” Udall said. “Secretary Vilsack’s decision is welcome news for Colorado communities that are experiencing a severe drought this year and is an example of how we can make federal programs better responsive to immediate needs in rural America.

According to the USDA, the improvements simplify the process for Secretarial disaster designations and will result in a 40 percent reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters. The new process also reduces the interest rate for emergency loans that effectively lowers the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent; and reduces the payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012 from 25 to 10 percent.

Bennet and Udall wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month asking for federal assistance for Colorado farmers and ranchers who are facing severe drought conditions that are threatening crops, livestock and rural livelihoods.  The senators voiced concerns they have heard from Colorado agricultural producers who are facing severe financial and operational losses.