(WASHINGTON) — As more than half of the U.S. battles through drought conditions, the Department of Agriculture announced this week a series of improvements that will help farmers and ranchers receive federal assistance faster.
The move, which will cut down on the processing time for relief and lower the interest rate for emergency loans, comes as the USDA declared a natural disaster in over 1,000 counties in 26 states. Those affected areas now qualify for help.
“We need to be cognizant of the fact that drought and weather conditions have severely impacted and affected producers around the country,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
“We do know that people are hurting and people are concerned and to the extent we can do things that can help them get through these tough times we want to do that,” he added.
The drought has likely been spurred by hotter than normal temperatures across the country. According to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first six months of the year were the warmest January-through-June period for the U.S. since record keeping began in 1895.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN
Ann O'Neill, CNN Newswire