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USDA announces steps to help farmers with drought

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is streamlining the process for farmers to apply for government disaster help as crops in many states burn up in the widest drought in nearly 25 years.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says more than 1,000 counties nationwide will automatically qualify for disaster assistance if they're in a severe drought for at least eight weeks or were in extreme drought this growing season.

The department also is lowering the interest rate on emergency loans to 2.25 percent from 3.75 percent. As much as $39 million is available under the program.

In addition, the government will help farmers use part of the land set aside in a conservation program for hay or grazing since the drought is expected to reduce the amount of corn available for feed.

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