Late last week the USDA announced some significant changes in its strategy to help farmers fight the worst drought the United States has seen in nearly 60 years. One step in the USDA’s long-term strategy is an amended agricultural ‘disaster area’, which now covers nearly the entire Southwest, large swaths of the South and, perhaps more salient to local farmers, sizable chunks of southern, western and northern Illinois. Per the USDA, those included in the new zone will see “immediately (expanded) assistance”.
On the organic side of things, the USDA recognizes the additional care and responsibilities that go along with being able to call a crop ‘organic’, and in response to this added hardship will offer the option of temporarily relaxing organic standards set by the National Organic Program. The change will not be automatic and requires growers who wish to explore this option to enter a ‘request for temporary variance’ to the USDA. Instruction for how to do this is linked below.
Further disaster assistance, such as an emergency farm loan are also available, up to $500,000, as well as the ‘Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program’. Details for these are provided on the USDA website.