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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.

You can learn more about the USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation Process in this 2-page fact sheet (updated April 2020).