Agriculture Secretary: Worst Drought in 25 Years
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Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the drought that's covering more than half of the continental U.S. will likely result in higher food prices, but added consumers won't notice until 'later this year, first part of next year.' (July 18)

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[Notes:Dateline: Washington -- July 18, 2012]SOT Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: "I did have an opportunity to visit with the President. He is very well informed on the circumstances surrounding a very serious drought, the most serious situation we've probably had in 25 years across the country. 61 percent of the land mass in the United States is currently being characterized as being impacted by this drought. And our hearts go out to the producers, the farm families who are struggling through something that they obviously have no control over and trying to deal with a very difficult circumstance. There's no question that this drought is having an impact on our crops. 78 percent of the corn crop is now in an area designated as drought impacted. 77 percent of the soybeans that are being grown in this country also impacted. It also obviously involves other commodities as well. 38 percent of our corn crop as of today is rated poor to very poor. 30 percent of our soybeans poor to very poor."SOT Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: "The question that a lot of folks are asking is what will the impact be on food prices? Because livestock producers will begin the process of potentially reducing the herds in light of higher fee costs, we would anticipate in the short-term actually food prices for beef, poultry, pork may go down a bit, but over time they will rise. We will probably see those higher prices later this year, first part of next year."SOT Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: "Crop producers have the ability to utilize crop insurance and for the most part crop insurance will provide historically about 72 percent coverage of yields and revenue loss, but it's the livestock producers that are in the biggest and most troubled situation because they simply don't have any disaster program and there's no such thing as a crop insurance program for livestock producers."SOT Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture: "Obviously this drought will provide some degree of uncertainty, but the most important thing is for Congress to take action to provide some direction and assistance so that folks know what's going to happen, what kind of protection they're going to have. That certainty is really important. And that' whether they want to got to work of the Food, Farm and Jobs bill, they want to develop a separate disaster program or extension of existing programs, whatever it might be, having that done as soon as possible, will be quite helpful."---------------BC-US--Obama-Drought,129Administration seeks drought help from CongressObama administration seeks drought help from Congress, says disaster worse in 25 yearsEds: APNewsNow. WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Obama administration is calling on Congress to provide assistance to farmers suffering from the worst drought in 25 years. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says three-fifths of the U.S. land mass and much of the country's corn and soybean crops are affected by the lack of rain. Vilsack met with President Barack Obama Wednesday to discuss a response to the disaster. Vilsack said farmers could get assistance if Congress passes a new farm bill, approves additional disaster programs or provides more flexibility in the availability of credit. Vilsack cautioned consumers about potential price gouging, saying any increase in retail costs would likely come much later. Asked about the role of prayer, Vilsack said "If I had a rain prayer or rain dance I could do, I would do it."(****END****) VIDEO PRODUCER: Nicole Grether---------------------------VIDEO SOURCE: pool-----------------------VIDEO APPROVAL: ----------------------------VIDEO RESTRICTIONS: none ----------------------------------MARKET EMBARGO (S): none--------------------------------