How is a drought disaster declared
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to designate counties as disaster areas (e.g., Secretarial disaster declaration). This designation makes emergency (EM) loans available to agricultural producers suffering losses in designated counties, and in counties that are contiguous to a designated county. In addition to EM loan eligibility, other emergency assistance programs, such as USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster assistance programs, have historically used disaster designations as an eligibility trigger.
Process: Drought disaster declaration
Additionally, the USDA’s Secretarial disaster declaration process includes Fast Track Secretarial disaster designations for severe drought. The Fast Track Secretarial disaster designations provide for a nearly automatic designation when, during the growing season, any portion of a county meets the D2 (Severe Drought) drought intensity value for 8 consecutive weeks – or a higher drought intensity value for any length of time as reported in the U.S. Drought Monitor.
- STEP 1: The governor, Indian Tribal Council leader, or Wyoming FSA State Executive Director makes a request, in writing, to the USDA Secretary of Agriculture within three months of the ending date of the disaster.
- STEP 2: FSA county offices assemble required agricultural loss information for the Loss Assessment Report.
- STEP 3: The FSA County Emergency Board reviews the Loss Assessment Report to determine if a 30% production loss of at least 1 crop occurred, and makes a recommendation to approve, defer, or reject the request.
- STEP 4: The FSA State Emergency Board reviews the request and the County Emergency Board’s recommendation. The State Emergency Board’s recommendation is submitted to FSA’s national headquarters.
- STEP 5: FSA national headquarters reviews the loss information on the Loss Assessment Report, determines eligibility and prepares a package, including the letter of approval or disapproval, to be signed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
You can learn more about the USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation Process in this 2-page fact sheet (updated April 2020).