Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has pledged his commitment to the nation’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities that USDA would continue to work to deliver assistance to those affected by recent extreme weather, including floods, drought, fires and tornadoes.

Vilsack said USDA would work to offer flexibility to producers and encouraged producers to contact their local county or state USDA Service Center or Farm Service Agency office for assistance.

Vilsack also announced additional flexibility in the Conservation Reserve Program that will assist producers struggling from drought in a number of states.

“America’s farmers and rural communities are vitally important to our nation’s economy and our values, and my heart goes out to all who are facing hardships because of severe weather and natural disasters,” said Vilsack.

“At USDA, we are working tirelessly to get assistance to folks who need it and are searching for flexibility in our programs to help farmers and ranchers in these difficult times. We will continue to listen to producers’ concerns and, whenever possible, offer assistance to help put people on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.”

Vilsack has issued disaster designations for 547 counties in 30 states. So far, producers have received $693 million in indemnity payments to help recover from disasters, including more than $520 million to those affected by drought and $88 million to those affected by flooding.

Additional assistance for livestock producers affected by the drought comes from the Livestock Forage Program which has already provided $114 million nationwide and over $50 million in Texas, $24 million in Oklahoma, and $11 million in New Mexico.

This timely assistance helps ranchers purchase feed for their livestock when they need it most.