Today, special authorization measures go into effect by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to aid ranchers and farmers in 1,016 counties — about one-third of U.S. counties — because they have been declared agriculture disaster areas. This is the biggest number ever. The counties are in 26 states.
In addition to the severe drought in the Southwest, over 50 percent of the Midwest is classified as in drought, from moderate to extreme. Eight Cornbelt states, with dozens of disaster counties, are in this drought belt, including Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Corn crop losses continue to mount and mass sell-off of cattle is occurring from Wyoming to Ohio.
However, the Federal assistance measures remain in the domain of aid-as-usual mode, including granting farmers eligibility for low-interest loans, expediting the processing of disaster claims for aid, and reducing the costs to ranchers to allow them to graze their livestock on land set aside for so-called conservation, etc.
An emergency package of real assistance — in line with re-instating Glass-Steagall — is urgent. This must involve banning speculation, instituting food price-controls, instituting price stability for farmers based on floor prices and parity, intervening with grants and physical assistance to save livestock, and stopping all corn-ethanol manufacture. Intervene to support and protect the farmers and farm capacity associated with the closed-down ethanol operations, but shut-down the ethanol sector completely.