Just over half of the counties in the U.S. are now labeled "natural disaster areas" after the Department of Agriculture recently added 218 counties in 12 states to the list.
With drought drying up food crops and animal feedstock, the USDA also said it was allowing haying and grazing on 3.8 million protected acres. The Department of Agriculture stated that it had received assurances from insurers that they would forgo interest payments on unpaid farm loans for up to 30 days.
Across 32 states, ranchers and farmers in 1,584 counties -- 50.3 percent of the total -- are now eligible for low-interest loans. Some 90 percent of those counties were listed due to drought conditions.
Crop shortages in turn mean higher food prices. The USDA last week raised its estimates of food price inflation, saying prices could rise as much as 3.5 percent this year and up to four percent in 2013.
And while the latest USDA steps might help ranchers and farmers, those groups joined forces last week to ask that the Environmental Protection Agency curb the mandate to produce ethanol from corn, saying that it was driving up prices for animal feed.