More than 1,000 counties across the United States will be labeled as primary natural disaster areas as of tomorrow, July 12, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, making this the largest single disaster announcement in USDA history. During a media conference announcing improvements to the disaster designation process, Vilsack said the new rules will fast track 1,016 counties immediately into the status of primary natural disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for low-interest loans. Citing the USDA Crop Report released earlier today, Vilsack said drought and other natural disasters contributed to a decline in crop estimates, leaving farmers and ranchers in need of help to assist with recovery. The new process allows counties rated as being in a severe drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor for eight consecutive weeks to be automatically listed as a primary natural disaster area without needing a state governor or Indian Tribal council to initiate the request. Vilsack added that interest rates for disaster loans also have been reduced from 3.75 to 2.25 percent. View list of primary and contiguous disaster counties.
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