The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared a state of natural disaster in more than 1,000 counties spread across 26 states, as drought and fires have hit the country hard this season. That covers about a third of all the farmers in the country.
Bloomberg News says the USDA’s declaration is aimed at helping those farmers by making them eligible for low-interest loans to help them weather the various disasters.
The USDA says it will also change procedures to allow disaster claims to be processed more quickly and lessen the penalty ranchers get for letting their animals graze on land set aside for conservation. The declaration is effective as of tomorrow.
“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We need to be cognizant of the fact that drought and weather conditions have severely impacted farmers around the country.”
Moderate to extreme drought covers about 53% of the Midwest right now, where most of the country’s crops are grown. That’s boosting costs for companies who rely on those products as well, including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, among others.
Most of the Southwest is covered by the declaration as well, as an area that has been ravaged by wildfires recently.
The declaration covers counties in the following states: California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Delaware and Hawaii.